6.3 A Gallery of Experiments
The following seven experiments are chosen from various fields and times to demonstrate the generality of the experimental approach. To avoid lengthy explanations of technical terms they are presented in a somewhat popularized form. Many important experiments in the history of science are, when you look closer, long series of experiments that do not lend themselves to brief description. Due to the limited space I have chosen these examples for their relative simplicity. They are often conducted within a limited time span and often involve equipment and concepts that are relatively easy to understand for a layman. Many represent scientific breakthroughs while a couple of them come to more mundane conclusions. The exhibition is chosen for its pedagogical value, not to present an experimental hall of fame.
One problem with research papers in this context is that they seldom discuss how the experimenters were thinking when they developed their ideas. We only get an account of how the experiments eventually were conducted. To amend this situation I have included some experiments described in biographical books, and I have also taken the liberty of including an experiment where I have participated myself.
After touring the exhibition, a number of exercises will help us reflect on how the previous discussion applies to real experiments. It is my hope that this will give the reader a more concrete comprehension of the experimental method than a purely theoretical ...