YEAH, JUST TRY AND PROVE IT!


The exclamatory title of this blog post is more likely something we have heard on one of those “cop tv shows” during the questioning of  a suspect.  The young Einstein in his patent office garb may have said the same thing, plaintively, as he released his Special Theory of Relativity and later his great General Theory of Relativity.  Not cocky, not defensive, but a serious request that his scientific peers test and confirm his theory.

In an earlier post, I stated that as we explore, we discover, and in discovering we are then committed to explain, and in explaining we advance the world of science.  It is the explaining part that we will consider here. The explanation we develop to illustrate and define our discovery may take the form of a theory (hypothesis). In this regard it could be as simple as our saying, “I think I just found a meteorite fragment” or as deceptively simple as Einstein’s energy equation: E=MC^2. Both of these statements start out as theory until they are proven to be true. The series of experimental tests needed to verify Einstein’s energy equation were extensive and difficult, but are unquestionable in their results. Energy has mass and mass has energy; all in relationship to the universal constant, the speed of light.

The verification of our meteorite find may be by a simple visual examination or it may take a series of chemical and geological tests to firmly establish its identity.  Regardless, just like the validation of Einstein’s theory we carry out the explanation process by finding ways to prove or disprove our theory. This is the hard work side of scientific research. Additionally,  it will take unique skills and expertise to devise experiments needed to prove or disprove a given theory. The experiments themselves are examples of creative, scientific thought. I remember all those seemingly dumb and dull lab experiments I had to do in Chemistry and Physics  in high school. Then, when patient and very caring teachers in both courses took the time to explain to me just what the experiments were and how they related to the scientific research process, I quickly discarded my earlier ratings of “dumb” and “dull.”

Our experiments are an essential part of the explanation process that follows our discoveries. If you wish to learn more about experiments and experimental design just click this link. In addition to conducting experiments to verify our theory, there are times when we will conduct observations of natural phenomena that enable us to see results that prove our explanation. This was a vital part of the process that scientist/astronomers used in verifying Einstein’s theories about light and gravity.  It took the precise observations of several total solar eclipses over several years to fully verify those explanations.  Once this happened, his theory became the most totally encompassing theory on the nature of our universe.  Despite this, Einstein, like all serious and dedicated scientists, was not satisfied and spent the rest of his life seeking (exploring) to build a theory, which he termed a unified field theory, or a theory that pulled everything in physics under one roof.  That theory has yet to be formulated, but it has gained new vigor as physicists once again seek to pull all of physics into one grand explanation.

So, as exciting as explorations and discoveries are, the process of explaining our finds can be equally challenging and exciting. They are highly exciting as we devise both experiments and observations that help us both explain and verify what we found during our explorations. They are also exciting because in devising ways to explain our discovery we must explore ways to achieve that explanation. In doing that we add to the great wealth of scientific research strategies.

Once we take that momentous step to explore, we open wide the doors of science and expose to all the amazing and enduring wonders of the universe. Please, tell me when we will be exploring again.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Humankind and Exploration, Scientific Research, Uncategorized

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