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Experiments: What are They? What can they tell us? What are their limits?

"An experiment is an orderly procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, refuting, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis." -Wiki

Whatever the precise nature of 'experimentation' turns out to be, it seems clear that many various methods of experimentation have become an integral part of what we call 'science'.  This week we will examine the nature of experimentation itself in differing guises. 

Is Wikipedia right that all experiments are always and only hypothesis driven?  If so, what does that entail for our scientific enterprises and institutions?  Can you ever 'prove' something through the experimental method?  What is does it mean to falsify some hypothesis?

What are some different types of 'experiments' in different 'sciences'?  How well do each function?  Are there qualitative differences between experiments in social psychology in particle physics and in medicine? 

Is there a significant degree to which we ought to be concerned with the artificiality of the laboratory?  Might tightening the alliance between 'science' and 'experiment' be, in some areas, misleading? 

What are some developments we have made or could we make in the future to improve experimental design?  and/or the interface between experiment and theory?

Hope to see you this week for a spirited discussion of the foundations and methods of science. 


Tom's Restaurant asks that we average $5 of purchases per person.  If you are able and willing, it will smooth the road to a good relationship to enjoy their hospitality.  Drinks may be purchased at the bar and food at the restaurant counter. 

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  • Steve S.

    Harland, check out:

    October 3, 2013

    • Harland

      I believe it was the Stern Gerlach apparatus experiment which proved that senses of humor are necessarily subjective. Apparently this cartoon is another illustration of this quantum effect.

      1 · October 3, 2013

    • Steve S.

      The Stern Gerlach experiment merely proved that electrons were objectively funny

      October 3, 2013

  • Steve S.

    Some nice insights and some rambling fuzziness.

    October 2, 2013

  • Laura G.

    Cool!! Coming with my philosophy friend, and potentially one other.

    October 2, 2013

  • Connie

    hate to miss but working late...

    October 2, 2013

  • RJ - Rene' G.

    THINK?...HmmM? Iwill ThiMk AboUt...But da Japanese Pollution is qUite GettiN Ta MiE!....HmmM!?

    October 1, 2013

  • Larry K.

    I have commitments Wed. PM and also very early Thursday in the valley. I just can't make it this time. Have a great discussion!

    October 1, 2013

  • Larry

    I will be away for 4 wks.

    September 29, 2013

  • Larry K.

    Are there valid non-scientific experiments? How are are Einstein's thought "experiments classified? Why do we insist on verification of a null hypotesis with natural phenomena?

    1 · September 29, 2013

  • Bob V.

    This sounds like it will be a lively discussion. To the conditions mentioned in Wikipedia, I would add that experimentation should, whenever possible, seek to confirm or refute hypotheses in ways that are repeatable, falsifiable, and objective.

    September 28, 2013

  • Steve S.

    I suspect that the majority of experiments are done just to see what happens. Certainly the ones I did at 7 were that way.

    September 28, 2013

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