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For the love of science.

June 21, 2014

I would be lying if I didn’t say that non-science (or google nonsense) angers me from time to time……often.

Sometimes Most of the time I keep these thoughts to myself, breathe them out, stop reading and get on with something more interesting but occasionally I feel the need to letitallout. Now is that time.

The biggest trigger for me is when I see the scientific method ridiculed and people using phrases like ‘yeh, we didn’t need to double blind, placebo control that as nature did that for us’ or equivalent.  Scientists are as prone to being egotistical wankers as the rest of society. In fact I would feel OK about it even if a study came back and found that scientists were statistically more wanky than your average accountant or hairdresser.  That is fine as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the data.

Science is a process, a way of thinking and I’ve blogged about this before here.  Science can be carried out by children,  teachers, nurses, politicians, hobbyists and car mechanics.  You don’t need to wear a white coat or have letters after your name.  You just need to have an appreciation and respect for a process, understand that results must be able to be replicated and must have a feel for and ability to control or minimise things that might impact on your results.  It helps if you start with a hypothesis – an explanation for why something is so – preferably a hypothesis that can be tested:

“If I heat Shea Butter it will melt”

Heat = Independent variable.

Temperature of the Shea Butter = Dependent variable.

This very simple experiment could be concluded by just exposing the shea butter to a heat source then watching it.  You could expand on this simple idea and plot a graph of how its form changes over time – does it change instantly from solid to liquid or is it a slower process?  Does anything else happen?  Does it chemically change?  How long does it take to change to a liquid compared to other butters?  What happens when it cools down?  All of these little things could be done to help you gain a better, more thorough understanding of the physical properties of Shea Butter.  Why would you do that?   To help you work out how it would perform as the base for a lip balm maybe, who knows!

The only thing that you need to do science is an open and enquiring mind that doesn’t try to hide or deny results that don’t fit with their hypothesis or initial thoughts.  I know from my own experimenting that there have been times when I felt completely sure of something only to try it out in the lab and find I was wrong.  That doesn’t make me feel big or clever but it isn’t about that.

I do what I do for the love of science and not the love of being right.  There is a difference, an important difference and one which sometimes gets lost in the land of the massive ego but where there is a will there is a way and I’m up for defending the scientific process through thick and thin.

But that doesn’t mean that I think all scientists are right and all non-science grads are wrong.

That would just be silly.

Amanda x


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