Experiment

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An Experiment is a procedure carried out to verify, refute, or validate a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated.

Quotes[edit]

  • No effect in nature is no reason reason. Know the reason reason and you do not needest of the experiment.
  • There is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. … It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty — a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid — not only what you think is right about it; other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked — to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

    Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can — if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong — to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

    In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or another.

    • Richard Feynman "[1]", adapted from a 1974 Caltech commencement address; also published in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, p. 341
  • We've learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature's phenomena will agree or they'll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven't tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it's this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in cargo cult science.
  • All experiments in psychology are not of this [cargo cult] type, however. For example there have been many experiments running rats through all kinds of mazes, and so on — with little clear result. But in 1937 a man named Young did a very interesting one. He had a long corridor with doors all along one side where the rats came in, and doors along the other side where the food was. He wanted to see if he could train rats to go to the third door down from wherever he started them off. No. The rats went immediately to the door where the food had been the time before.

    The question was, how did the rats know, because the corridor was so beautifully built and so uniform, that this was the same door as before? Obviously there was something about the door that was different from the other doors. So he painted the doors very carefully, arranging the textures on the faces of the doors exactly the same. Still the rats could tell. Then he thought maybe they were smelling the food, so he used chemicals to change the smell after each run. Still the rats could tell. Then he realized the rats might be able to tell by seeing the lights and the arrangement in the laboratory like any commonsense person. So he covered the corridor, and still the rats could tell.

    He finally found that they could tell by the way the floor sounded when they ran over it. And he could only fix that by putting his corridor in sand. So he covered one after another of all possible clues and finally was able to fool the rats so that they had to learn to go to the third door. If he relaxed any of his conditions, the rats could tell.

    Now, from a scientific standpoint, that is an A-number-one experiment. That is the experiment that makes rat-running experiments sensible, because it uncovers the clues that the rat is really using — not what you think it's using. And that is the experiment that tells exactly what conditions you have to use in order to be careful and control everything in an experiment with rat-running.

    I looked into the subsequent history of this research. The next experiment, and the one after that, never referred to Mr. Young. They never used any of his criteria of putting the corridor on sand, or of being very careful. They just went right on running rats in the same old way, and paid no attention to the great discoveries of Mr. Young, and his papers are not referred to, because he didn't discover anything about rats. In fact, he discovered all the things you have to do to discover something about rats. But not paying attention to experiments like that is a characteristic of cargo cult science.

    • Richard Feynman, "Cargo Cult Science", adapted from a 1974 Caltech commencement address; also published in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, p. 345
  • I do feel strongly that this is nonsense! … So perhaps I could entertain future historians by saying I think all this superstring stuff is crazy and is in the wrong direction. I think all this superstring stuff is crazy and is in the wrong direction. … I don’t like it that they’re not calculating anything. … why are the masses of the various particles such as quarks what they are? All these numbers … have no explanations in these string theories – absolutely none! … I don’t like that they don’t check their ideas. I don’t like that for anything that disagrees with an experiment, they cook up an explanation—a fix-up to say, “Well, it might be true.” For example, the theory requires ten dimensions. Well, maybe there’s a way of wrapping up six of the dimensions. Yes, that’s all possible mathematically, but why not seven? When they write their equation, the equation should decide how many of these things get wrapped up, not the desire to agree with experiment. In other words, there’s no reason whatsoever in superstring theory that it isn’t eight out of the ten dimensions that get wrapped up and that the result is only two dimensions, which would be completely in disagreement with experience. So the fact that it might disagree with experience is very tenuous, it doesn’t produce anything.
    • Richard Feynman interview published in Superstrings: A Theory of Everything? (1988) edited by Paul C. W. Davies and Julian R. Brown, p. 193-194 ISBN 0521354625
  • Each piece, or part, of the whole of nature is always merely an approximation to the complete truth, or the complete truth so far as we know it. In fact, everything we know is only some kind of approximation, because we know that we do not know all the laws as yet. Therefore, things must be learned only to be unlearned again or, more likely, to be corrected. … The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific “truth”.
    • Richard Feynman volume I; lecture 1, "Atoms in Motion"; section 1-1, "Introduction"; p. 1-1
  • In general, we look for a new law by the following process: First we guess it. Then we – now don't laugh, that's really true. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what, if this is right, if this law that we guessed is right, to see what it would imply. And then we compare the computation results to nature, or we say compare to experiment or experience, compare it directly with observations to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment, it's wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn't make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn't make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is. If it disagrees with experiment, it's wrong. That's all there is to it.
  • Why are the theories of physics so similar in their structure?
    There are a number of possibilities. The first is the limited imagination of physicists: when we see a new phenomenon, we try to fit it into the framework we already have—until we have made enough experiments, we don’t know that it doesn’t work. So when some fool physicist gives a lecture at UCLA in 1983 and says, “This is the way it works, and look how wonderfully similar the theories are,” it’s not because Nature is really similar; it’s because the physicists have only been able to think of the same damn thing, over and over again.
  • The modern, everyday experimentally confirmed conception of space vacuum is a relativistic ether . We call it not so, because the taboo is.
    • Robert B. Laughlin : Farewell to the World Formula , page 184
  • In truth is something want to do an experiment to find out what we can; it can give us only the success or failure to instruct.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche , estate, KSA 9: 3 [120]
  • Play is experimenting with the accident.
  • My view is that the contribution of human cells is going to be minimal, maybe 3 percent, maybe 5 percent. But what if they contributed to 100 percent of the brain? What if the embryo that develops is mostly human? It’s something that we don’t expect, but no one has done this experiment, so we can’t rule it out.
  • "The scientific question is the logical hypothesis which from a known law further proceeds by analogy and induction, the answer gives the experiment, which is prescribed in the question itself."
    • Rudolf Virchow , the scientific method and the views in therapy. From: Archives of pathological anatomy and physiology and for clinical medicine. 2. ribbon. Berlin: Reimar, 1849. P. 7. Google Books

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