For an explanation of SPLATS, see the main splats page
SPLATS about science as a discipline
The complete list of science topics, now all avaiable:
Back to the top
The nature of science
- All of the principles here are open to question. You may change your mind as you learn more, but they work as a basis to invent, make and explain things.
- Science works well because everything is open to question. There is no room in the principles of science for notions of dogma, heresy or political correctness.
- The secret of real science is that things have a cause, they just don't happen, and causes are limited by some neat laws about conservation of mass and energy.
- Energy does not appear out of nowhere, it has to exist and be transferred, and energy only travels in one direction: from high to low, never the other way.
- In some cases, energy may appear to flow the other way, as when a refrigerator gets cold, but that is because energy has been used to move other energy.
- Matter is made up of atoms that link together, and it normally takes an application of energy to change those linkages and rearrange the atoms a new way.
- In all sorts of chemistry, in test tubes, in industry, in rocks and in living things, the products always weigh the same as the original ingredients.
- Science depends on an acceptance of the causality principle, that there is a necessary and sufficient cause for everything. Science is about seeking causes.
- The only reliable knowledge comes when you test everything, but even then do not assume you know the complete story. Usually, the simplest explanation is best.
- If scientists find that a fact does not fit their favorite theories, and they are unable to disprove the fact, there is no choice: the theories have to go.
- Around 1330, William of Ockham proposed what we now call 'Ockham's razor', which basically says that given two explanations, the simpler one is a better one.
- Scientists reserve the right to reject any claim that is made which does not appear to be backed by evidence and an acceptable and rigorous scientific proof.
- The explanation of an observation that we accept today may be discarded in the future when we learn more, and realize that it is not consistent with the facts.
- Science is made up of a set of mutually consistent ideas, generalizations and principles. Changing any one will usually mean having to (at least) adjust others.
- The beauty of science is that what we learn in one branch of science may be applied in other branches: if the branches are inconsistent, something must change.
- You cannot just throw out ideas you don't like. To discard any idea in science, including these principles, you need evidence from a controlled experiment.
- The controlled experiment lies at the very center of the scientific method. To work, it must involve a knowledge of current theories and likely causes.
- If a controlled experiment is to work, it must either deliver results that can be measured in some reliable way, or it must deliver an unequivocal response.
- Because it is not always clear what evidence is most relevant, it is possible for scientists to disagree, for the time being. In the end, they usually agree.
- Around 320, Lactantius, the 'Christian Cicero', showed by rigorous logic that the Earth did not have antipodes. This was later used to prove the world was flat.
- In 1800 Georg Hegel wrote a dissertation to show that seven planets was a necessity of nature, a year before the first asteroid is discovered.
- As a general rule, proof by logical argument is not all that useful in science, since it is possible to start with false premises and reach wrong answers.
- While it is uncommon to prove the truth of something in science, it is possible to test certain assumptions by what is known today as a thought experiment.
- Thought experiments do not actually prove something to be right or wrong (though they may suggest it). They can sometimes point the way for further enquiries.
- Michael Faraday used lines of force to explain the effects of magnetic fields in a concrete way, and we continue to use the notion, but there are no such lines.
- One of the curious features of science is that so much of it is counter-intuitive, going against what we expect, based on what we can see, looking around us.
- To the unscientific eye, the Earth is flat, the Sun moves around the planet, things stop if they are not pushed, and evolution does not happen as we watch.
Back to the top
This file is http://members.ozemail.com.au/~macinnis/scifun/splatsci.htm, first created on July 24, 2004. Last recorded revision (well I get lazy and forget sometimes!) was on February 16, 2008.
©The author of this work is Peter Macinnis, who asserts his sole right to the product as it is packaged here, recognising that many of the ideas are common. You are free to use this as a model to do your own version. Copies of this whole file or site may be made and stored or printed for personal or educational use.
This site had 219,000 hits on the index page from 1999 to January 2007 and an unknown number on other pages. In January 2007, a combined counter was placed on all of the pages, counting page hits which now total