Observe and Test

Science means a collection of facts, ideas, and procedures that represent learning in a branch of knowledge.

How does science come up with these ideas? There is a method to its madness. I say madness because when an idea is new everybody is against it, and when an idea is old it gets dumbed down toward superstition. This is why we need the special breed of people in society whom we call scientists.

Science uses the method of observation and testing to verify a fact of nature or crystallize an idea.

At first one doesn’t even know jhe (he or she) is looking for the particular thing. As time goes on jhe (he or she) notices a certain regularity in nature. Other people may have noticed this same regularity. That’s OK. There is no reason why a scientist has to discover something new. It’s a way of life.

If the item is new, which a scientist knows how to check by joh (his or her) practice of how to search through journals, i.e. look things up, or ask about among the colleagues in the establishment who would know about things in this particular branch, jhe (he or she) usually wants to publish joh (his or her) discovery or invention.

But the observation must be tested. Other people have to be able to appreciate the same fact, idea, or procedure in the same objective way. A fortiori, in taking the trouble to explain joh (his or her) findings, jhe (he or she) usually comes up with a lot of other observations in the same neighborhood, which can also be verified, which increase the understanding of the initial thing and lend more stability and credibility to the theory.

A good example to show how observation and testing go hand in hand to produce a theory which adds to the knowledge, consider the branch of knowledge known as physics. Galileo Galilei began our understanding of the movement of objects (until Galileo came along people had a dim idea that things moved, but they didn’t know much about it). Somehow, through some observations, Galileo got the idea that mass was different than weight. He might have gotten onto this track by thinking about momentum which we define today as mass times velocity. Everybody knows that when an SUV hits you it does more damage than a compact car. This is why SUV drivers are more polite and considerate.

Galileo tested his observation that mass and weight are different by climbing the Tower of Piza and dropping a ball of iron and a ball of feathers simultaneously. They both struck the ground at exactly the same time. Gravity acts on a body irrespective of mass. Gravity is an equal opportunity race organizer.

Later during the century Isaac Newton was sitting under a tree and saw an apple fall. He had a vision. He went into a profound meditation and didn’t do anything else for a long time. Later he explained that he stood on the shoulders of Rene Descartes and Galileo Galilei, so as to give some suggestion of continuity with the past. Newton postulated that force equals mass times acceleration. Gravity is just an acceleration. Through Newton’s calculus the acceleration, motion, and position in time of an object can be calculated. If you know one you know the others.

Scientists, engineers, and mechanics took over from there. For 300 years now we know that force equals mass times acceleration.

I think everyone appreciates this physics idea as it relates to social and personal politics by analogy. By definition everyone operates in a social society on the same level. That is why we hold dear that sometimes we act as ladies and gentlemen. A person might have a lot of weight, mass, clout, pull, push, attraction, denial, whatever you want to call it, but on the civic dance floor jhe (he or she) does not use it. On the civic dance floor we have the favor of gravity. We each enjoy the same acceleration and resulting speed and distance. If someone uses joh (his or her) weight in civics we cry foul.

Maybe this last bit of the science of sociology hasn’t been worked out yet. Maybe it’s not even true. Why don’t you test it and see what you observe?