THE STATE OF SCIENCE: How does science work? And how can we experiment on things that don’t fit in a lab? Dr Will Howard examines the many faces of the scientific method.
As adults, our understanding of science often comes from secondary-school chemistry or physics classes, in which an important form of instruction is lab-bench experimentation.
These were exercises in which the system being studied could be manipulated and altered in a test tube, and the experiment always finished before the bell rang.
But many scientific insights are drawn from observing systems too large in scale (the universe) or processes too slow (evolution) for us to “experiment” in the same way our high-school selves remember.
“How can you test hypotheses,” a criticism might go, “when you can’t run, much less replicate, the experiment?”