Exploring science and engineering.

The idea is to understand the Scientific Method and to have fun applying it while accumulating Scientific Knowledge.

In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compare the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is--if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong

-Richard Feynman (1918/1988), US educator & physicist

"The scientific method," Thomas Henry Huxley once wrote, "is nothing but the normal working of the human mind." That is to say, when the mind is working; that is to say further, when it is engaged in correcting its mistakes. Taking this point of view, we may conclude that science is not physics, biology, or chemistry--is not even a "subject"--but a moral imperative drawn from a larger narrative whose purpose is to give perspective, balance, and humility to learning.

-Neil Postman. The End of Education, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1995, p 68.

Distillations of ideas from Karl Popper:

  • All observation is theory laden.
  • All knowledge is conjectural.
  • Scientific knowledge is tested by observation, not derived from it.
  • Scientific theories are testable conjectures.

The evolution of knowledge began with a relatively simple arrangement of information. The most simple organization was the invention of the fact. Facts, in fact, were invented. Not by science but by the European legal system, in the 1500s. In court lawyers had to establish agreedd-upon observations as evidence that could not shift later. Science adopted this useful invention. Over time, the novel ways in which knowleged could be ordered increased. This complex apparatus for relating new information to old knowledge is what we call science.

The scientific method is not one uniform "method." It is a collection of scores of techniques and processes that has evolved over centuries (and continues to evolve). Each method is one small step that incrementally increases the unity of knowledge in society. A few more of the seminal inventions in the scientifi method include:

  • 280 B.C.E. Cataloged library with index (at Alexandria), a way to search recorded information
  • 1403 Collaborative encyclopedia, a pooling of knowledge from more than one person
  • 1590 Controlled experiment, used by Francis Bacon
  • 1665 Necessary repeatability, Robert Boyle's idea that results of an experiment must be repeatable to be valid
  • 1752 Peer-reviewed-refereed journal, adding a layer of confirmation and validation over shared knowledge
  • 1885 Blinded, randomized design, a way to reduce human bias; randomness as a new kind of information
  • 1934 Falsifiable testability, Karl Popper's notion that any valid experiment must have some testable way it can fail
  • 1937 Controlled placebo, a refinement in experiments to remove the effect of biased knowledge of the participant
  • 1946 Computer simulation, a new way of making theory and generating data
  • 1952 Double-blind experiment, a further refinement to remove the effect of knowledge of the experimenter.
  • 1974 Meta-analysis, a second-level analysis of all previous analysis in a given field

... The scientific method, like science itself, is accumulated structure.

-p 338, What Technology Wants (2010) by Kevin Kelly.

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