Scientific method – If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong

07May08

I guess the best place to start is a description of scientific method. In a nutshell, scientific method means to question, investigate, test, verify and open to criticism any and all ideas. Science – by extension – is using the scientific method to prove or disprove ideas. Anyone can float an idea but only flogging the hell out of it to see if the outcomes match the idea, and ditching the idea if they do not match it, is real science.

The process of ‘flogging the hell out of it’ must be measurable, provide observable results and do so in a way that can be repeated by others. This process should always include documentation that explains the idea, how it was tested and the results of testing. This documentation must then be shared with others so they can try for the same results. Only through repeated, independant testing and verified results can your idea be proven.

So, broadly, that’s what we call scientific method and it’s possibly the greatest discovery man has ever made.

To quote Richard Feynman, one of the great twentieth century physicists, from a lecture he gave in 1964;

In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute 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.

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