Hooray, registration for the FCMoD Summer Programs just opened! When I’m not working in the Archive, I study the history of science, and the descriptions of two of our summer programs – Science Explorers and Science Seekers – made me think about the nature of experiment. Here are some thoughts about what it means to experiment. I hope they inspire you.
Experiments, a fundamental way of understanding the natural world, use
physical methods to learn new things by noting actions and reactions.
Experiments set things up in relation to other things, control the outcome, and
measure results in relation to time and space and proportion.
“I wonder what will happen if …” : an experiment puts that thought into practice, and
derives answers via physical objects – like fire and ice, bottles and tubes, steam and vapor,
rocks and metal, beakers of liquid, pulleys and levers …
Experiments can reveal something completely unexpected, or show concretely (with words and numbers and equipment) something we believed to be true but had not proved.
Experiments utilize rules, conceptualizations, and creative (even artistic) interpretations,
as well as bravado and showmanship.
Experiment deals with the material world, with the stuff we can see,
as well as the stuff we can’t see with the naked eye.
Experiment is manipulation; it takes stuff and changes it into something else –
and sometimes changes it back again.