Short History of Nearly Everything Reflection

Topics: Scientific method, Earth, Science Pages: 10 (3471 words) Published: November 20, 2005
A Standard Scientific Method Does Not Exist

Some people believe that there is a cookie cutter method to perform science. However, a standard scientific method does not and will never exist. Science is a lot more complex than following a set of standard procedures. Scientific events and discoveries happen very often, but the method of achieving these often vary considerably. Some occur in unique ways, require certain circumstances, or even happen by pure accident.

One example of a discovery found by accident was the discovery of phosphorous. Hennig Brand was actually attempting to make gold when he discovered phosphorous. What better way to try to make gold than by distilling urine. This was Brand's initial thought. In spite of this, he soon found that when his substance was exposed to air, it burst into flame spontaneously. The funniest part of this discovery is that an ounce of his newly discovered phosphorous retailed for about the equivalent to five hundred dollars in today's money. By accident he had actually created something that was worth even more than the gold he originally attempted to create.

C. T. R. Wilson also pulled off an example of an accidental finding in science. After building an artificial cloud chamber to study cloud formations, he found that he actually created the first particle detector as well. He provided the first convincing evidence that subatomic particles exist.

Albert Michelson was assisted by Edward Morley in an attempt to find evidence that for half of the year the Earth is traveling toward the Sun and for half of the year it is moving away from it. Michelson thought that if he compared light's travel time between the two, he would find what he needed. He devised an interferometer to precisely measure the velocity of light. What he found by the interferometer was actually the opposite of his thoughts prior to his work. In all directions and all season, the speed of light was actually the same. This, as stated by William H. Cropper was, "probably the most famous negative result in the history of physics."

A young man with no formal training as an astronomer, Clyde Tombaugh, beat the formally trained and experienced astronomers in spotting the first American discovered planet. It was the last planet our world has discovered, Pluto. Lowell had hypothesized that Pluto had existed, but no one could spot it until the amateur Tombaugh came along.

Although creativity and luck can be very important to science, formalized systems of naming and measurement are vital to science. In order to advance on previous finding, there needs to be some formal systems. Prior to the periodic table, for example, chemists used a variety of symbols and abbreviations for the same elements, which would have been very confusing. Chemistry by the second half of the nineteenth century was a mess. Mendeleyev helped to bring a method to the madness of chemistry.

There really is not a standard scientific method in performing experiments. Creativity is extremely important to science. Science is much different than everyday thinking. By now, if science had a standard scientific method, there wouldn't be anything left for science to discover. Scientists very often have to think outside of the box.

Science is Bounded

Advancements in the world of science have had certain boundaries over time and will always have boundaries. Some of these can be or have been overcome, while others may never be overcome due to limitations. In the book, Bryson offered several boundaries that have been met over the existence of science.

Probably the biggest boundary in science is that it does not and cannot explain or deny the existence of the supernatural. Explanations are beyond nature and therefore beyond science. Perhaps the most extraordinary fact we know is that whatever prompted life to begin, it happened only once. Science says that at some unimaginable distant past some bag of chemicals fidgeted to...
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