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John Adair's 100 Greatest Ideas for Smart Decision Making by John Adair

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Idea 25: The principle of falsification

Madam, a thousand experiments cannot ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.

Albert Einstein, German physicist

The epigraph is Einstein’s reply to a woman who was rather effusively congratulating him on news of an astronomical observation that seemed to prove his theory of relativity.

The philosopher Karl Popper formulated his famous principle of falsification mainly from his conversations with Einstein. The fact that a scientific generalization could be falsified, Popper argued, was precisely what made it a proper scientific hypothesis.

Science advances by making conjectures (hypotheses and later theories), which are tested by empirical experiment and perhaps refuted; if refuted, they ...

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