Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Saturday, 28 February 2015

When science is not entirely science

I have to admit that science is not my forte'. Thus I confess I still have not figured out why, living just below the Equator and while standing at a right angle, I do not fall off the face of planet Earth.

I have some vague understanding of the word gravity, describing how some unseen forces pull me in proportionate measure in all directions and, in consequence, I remain standing where I should not. The important point is I am not missing any sleep over my failure to fully understand gravity.

And yet I am not cowed enough to read scientific writings without a critical eye. I have read in more than a few occasions writings by scientists, people who should apply the most rigorous tests to scientific claims, using language that is closer to prose than science. In these writings I have seen words such as "most likely", highly likely", or "probably" used to lend support for outcomes that would, in my opinion, require backing from real scientific research instead of wishes on some attempt to link desired outcomes to some remotely-related scientific research.

I believe not a year goes by without some scientist revealing how some space probe "might" provide clues to the origin of the universe. Space research gets substantial funding from advanced nations and I suspect the beneficiaries of these funds inevitably run out of justification for some of their projects and fall back on recycling the probability that some space probe "may" finally solve the mystery of the origin of the universe.

I am eagerly waiting 14th July 2015 when the New Horizons spacecraft is scheduled to reach Pluto from where it "may" send back information of a huge scientific discovery. That should satisfy the scientists, but I would settle for much much less. That a spacecraft millions of kilometres away is controlled from Earth is thrilling enough for me. It might be basic science for the scientists behind the project, but I am likely to recount that momentous event to my grandchildren one day. I find no need for the scientists to promise me the "possible" unlocking of the mysteries of the universe. But, my way would be, at the very least, acceptance of the notion of funding science for science's sake but providing nothing practical in return to humans.

Have you figured out why a glass of water does not spill at the Equator? Without turning to Wikipedia? Please enlighten me.

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