The Scientific Method
(This description comes from
the teaching pages of Ross Koning;
I cite it here with his permission.)
Using the Scientific Method in an Attempt
to Arrive at the Truth in an Everyday Situation
The situation is this:
You arrive home late at night, walk up to your house door, unlock the
door, reach in to the light switch just inside the front door. The light
does not come on! Now what?
As a normal human being, you will go
through a mental and physical process of hypothesis testing. The steps
happen very rapidly in your mind and, prior to this, you may not have
had names for the various steps. Nevertheless, I hope you will recognize
what your brain is doing as you stand there in the darkness. You are
already a scientist as you will see, you just didn't know it!
Night, Come Home, Switch On, No Light....we are "IN THE DARK"
Power IS out!
If power is out, then light is out at all neighbors, when I look
Manipulation: switch on, no light.
Control?=neighbor's lights, street lights
If ANY house with light, prediction fails, decision = reject?
error? Coleman Lantern, Generator
If all houses dark, prediction holds, decision = not reject?
error? All out to dinner, movies, fireworks?
above, note chance error = no definitive answer...NO PROOF!
DO YOU WANT TO WAIT IN
THE DARK FOR ALL YOUR NEIGHBORS TO COME HOME?
Switch IS broken
If hypothesis is true, then brief flash, when I jiggle switch
jiggle switch...not even a flash
Too broken to even flash? needs stronger test, replace switch?
Do switches fail frequently?
Maybe another hypothesis is more likely?
abort...no electrical work in the dark!
Light bulb burned out?
Light bulb IS burned out!
If hypothesis true, then light will come on, when I install new bulb
Grope in closet in dark or rob another lamp...install bulb...LIGHT!
Original bulb would not light, new bulb does light
Cannot reject hypothesis!
error: NO PROOF...more testing needed!
If hypothesis true, then bulb will tinkle, when I shake it
Shake it, control is new bulb
Reject hypothesis! NOW WE ARE CONFUSED! More testing!
error: wire not broken or wire broken in only one place (no tinkle!)
Bulb loose in socket?
Bulb was loose
If hypothesis true, then light will come on, when I re-install it
Tighten it...It lights!
Can we be sure that it was loose?
Cannot reject.....NO PROOF!
Error: maybe power just came back on...
switch is weirdly intermittent... or.....
PAST EVENTS CANNOT BE
Genie of the lamp was originally displeased with us...
after all the cord stroking, bulb changing, switch fiddling,
Genie is now happy with us so it lights?
Genie of lamp not listening for requests
(Genie asleep or, worse, dead)
(Thank goodness we did that CPR)
We cannot test these last hypotheses
because Genies cannot be manipulated scientifically. Worse, whatever
happened to cause the initial failure, occurred in the past and we
cannot go back in time to run tests. So we cannot eliminate the Genie in
the Lamp ideas. But the evidence
leads us to the ultimate theory: The
Bulb Was Loose In the Socket!
in science is an idea that has been tested thoroughly, and despite
extensive testing, cannot be rejected. It is as close to the truth as we
can get while still admitting that we cannot eliminate the rest of the
possible hypotheses (Genies and such).
© Koning, Ross E. "The Scientific Method". Plant Physiology