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Boring Science

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The scientific method is boring.

Don’t get me wrong; science can do some amazingly interesting stuff. Chemistry and physics demonstrations can be awesome to watch, and fun to perform. Pretty pictures and fascinating facts come out of biology, geology, and astronomy. I love learning about it all, and enjoyed (most of) my physics classes in college.

But then I tried my hand at research. Designing and crafting devices for an experiment can provide some interest and challenge, but the bulk of the work is taking data. Mounds and mounds of it. Then sifting through it, searching for patterns or meaning. Even with a computer to do most of the tedious transcription, you spend quite a bit of time waiting for test runs to complete, or for graphs to appear, or for programs to finish.

That background helps me appreciate the Mythbusters. Yes, their science is ad-hoc, unrigorous, and limited in sample size, but it’s fun. They distill the scientific method into something that can be applied in everyday life, to anything you might hear or watch.  Then they apply it to explosions, guns, cars, robots, and everything else too expensive or dangerous to try at home.

The world needs fun teachers more than it needs rigorous scientists. What could happen if every child learned to ask whether something is true, and learned how to find out? Would they be less impressed by misleading advertisements? Would they be more resistant to peer pressure?

Sadly, I’m not the kind of teacher we need. Once in a while I can explain something in a way that resonates, but even then I have a hard time repeating it. Most of the time, especially in person, and particularly when trying to teach, I can make science even more boring than it already is.

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Written by eswald

7 May 2013 at 8:57 pm

Posted in Lifestyle

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