04 June 2013

Science as a method rather than conclusion

Some of us carry science with us throughout our life.  I'm one, and think we tend to have more fun in our lives.  That's the method aspect.  To my mind, the absolutely central aspect of science is "try to learn more about how the universe works".  All of us can do this, in almost any circumstance.  Some don't choose to do it, but even if you're not doing it at a professional level, you can do it.  Learning things about the world _you_ didn't know before is, still, science.

A side effect of this view is that I 'stray' from my alleged focus.  This includes field glaciology, planetary astronomy, observing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and, well, many topics that show up on my blogroll and points farther afield.

Really, though, my view is described best by one of my students.  I was teaching college physical geology (a story in its own right, but one I'll neglect here) and late in the class, after the field trip, one of my students mentioned that the class had changed how he looked at the world. 

The world is a fascinating place.  Look anywhere and amazing things are happening, or in progress, or about to happen.  To quote a different person, my niece; she went for _adventures_, not merely walks.  Just look at those ants.  What are they doing?!  Why this, and not that?!  In the case of physical geology, you can look at the river meanders that are in process of getting more (or less) extreme, the hillside that is in the process of slumping because the roadcut was too steep, and ... just amazingly many different things we can all see if we look.  The countryside is an _active_ place, always evolving to different conditions.

Related point is that my wife and I went traveling to Alaska with a pair of field biologists.  I know from nothing about biology, especially field biology.  But my wife and I had a lot of fun walking around Denali National Park with the field biologists.  She and I would see "a bunch of mossy-kind-of-stuff", being un-knowledgeable.  Our friends were seeing all kinds of amazing things.  "You don't get moss like _this_ back east!!", "Just _look_ at how thick that moss is!!".

We have tools for doing science, making more things observable, or testing ideas.  But the ground zero of being a scientist and doing science is that we realize that the universe is an incredibly interesting place.  The tools are aids, not requirements.  Figuring out the universe, the fascinating and stranger-than-we-_can_-suppose universe, is the requirement and excitement.

so say I :-)

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