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Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting by Oivind Andersson

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4.6 Summary

  • Experimentation is a more efficient way to obtain information than passive observation. Where the passive observer may have to deal with large amounts of irrelevant information, the experimenter creates conditions that are relevant to a specific problem.
  • As scientists aim to understand nature, it is often more important for them to recognize patterns than to be able to measure with precision.
  • Experimentation is not to be confused with measurement. An experiment is an interactive exploration of nature. A measurement is an organized way of obtaining data, but may still constitute a passive form of observation.
  • Experimenters often need the ability to conceptualize a problem. The inclined plane is a successful example of such conceptual thinking, allowing Galileo to study free fall using the technology of his time. Aristotle's method of slowing objects down in water is a less successful example. The problem must be simplified without disturbing or removing its essential features.
  • Some important experiments test theories, but not all. Experiments may be pure empirical explorations, driven by curiosity alone.

References

1. Crease, R.P. (2004) The Prism and the Pendulum, Random House, New York.

2. Galilei, G. (1914) Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences (H. Crew and A. de Salvio, trans), Dover Publications, New York.

3. Settle, T.B. (1961) An Experiment in the History of Science. Science, 133(3445), 19–23.

4. Koyré, A. (1953) An Experiment in Measurement. Proceedings of ...

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