The Scientific Method

I have found with a number of shows and popular news articles that the scientific method seems to be going out of style. Case in point must be mythbusters – the entire premise of this show seems to be that by conducting experiments we can “prove” what theory, myth and speculation can not. Mathematical models and physics are used only as crude tools to guide the experiment. The experiments themselves are based on guesswork, a feel for the materials and a sense of what should happen, often changing operational variables mid experiment or factoring unexpected results into an expected outcome.

Case in point was the latest aired mythbusters in which the aimed to prove whether a steel capped boot could cut off your toe. The began by using a plastic substance which Jamie described as the most accurate material he had ever used and closest resemblence to human flesh despite being flesh. Through the first half of the experiemnt with the steel cap it behaved as expected, but when the steel cap removed it turned out that the material was more resistant than they imagined so it was instantly abandoned as being inaccurate.

It is not alone – brainiac, beyond tomorrow, catalyst, any science column you read even some sciences seem to be favouring experimental data over theory. It seems that the tenet of science itself, that the scientific method is the one true way to reach the truth. After reading “Faster” some years ago I have been concerned that the world is speeding up and we are taking serious shortcuts. These days its not unheard of to expected 2 year ROI on a high-tech company which might sound like a long time until you consider that an ROI is supposed to symbolise a recognition of a major contribution to the world (especially when we are talking about millions of dollars). I think the great irony of computers is that they have sped up so much that we are speeding trying to catch up with them constantly afraid of what the person next door is doing at a rapid pace.

Truth and real long lasting human achievement takes a great deal of time and cannot be rushed. It is important that even in a rapidly changing world we set long term goals.

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