The Art of Science

Science – what is it, how does it work and who does that kind of work? Answers to these questions and examples provided here on a weekly basis, are the underpinnings of this column. So, as to the answer to “what,” I very much like the elegant definition provided in a recent edition of LiveScience. “Science is a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work. It is also the body of knowledge accumulated through the discoveries about all the things in the universe”.

Scientists like facts and have trouble with opinions or preferences, but that being said, we are human and recognize, as irksome, that not everything can be explained. We do, however, soldier on, finding solace in the recognition that science focuses only on the natural world. So lucky for us, anything considered supernatural does not fit into the definition of science, so we are in the clear. But we do need some rules and they come in the form of the scientific method.

In order to conduct research, which is, in essence, the collection of measurable, empirical evidence, scientists use a template, commonly referred to the scientific method to form an experiment. The basis of each experiment is the scientific hypothesis, a simple if/then statement with the aim to generate results that support or yes, contradict a theory. What we are talking about here is that a scientific hypothesis, based on acquired knowledge and lots of observations, is in reality, just an educated guess.

Who are the people qualified to use scientific method, make these educated guesses and build experiments? Well, as it turns out, anyone who can live by the rules set down in Scientific Method can do science - but it does help to have studied at at least one of the various university levels to learn the tricks of the trade.

A science-based Baccalaureate Degree allows candidates a generalized view of the field of science with and expectation of narrowing their focus to a subject major in the final years of a generally four year adventure.

A Masters Degree shows that a student has “mastered” the art of a particular topic within a scientific field. These people should know how to design an experiment, manage the project and the available resources.

And finally, a Doctorate or PhD. These people have drilled down through multiple fields in science and perhaps, even the arts and have honed in one particular topic to the point that they become world class experts. Being awarded a PhD suggests the individual is recognized by the faculty who trained them, as being a peer or equal.

Then, after all the required learning and experience to get really good at science, why is it that we don’t always get it right. Well, I suppose the best answer is that our work, when combined with the achievements of others will continue to chip away at the really big puzzles that still face us. If there is an answer, scientists have the tools and rules to work together to find it.

For a precise and elegant look at Scientific Method check out http://www.livescience.com/20896-science-scientific-method.html.

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