Saturday, December 10, 2011

(My) Scientific Method

Dr Rachel Armstrong posed a question recently on her facebook and asked scientists to describe their 'Scientific Method'.  Before I begin with my description of the process, I have to provide a history of experiences that shape my method.  In no particular order, these are the memories of my life that somehow contribute to the way I research a problem:

Laughing my head off as my mother makes popcorn in the kitchen with no lid on the pot with popcorn flying all over the place.

The smell of electric motors from a slot car track.

Building a pond in the basement of my parents house when I am in grade school, so I can test my toy boats, only to have it spring a leak from a misplaced propeller and flood the basement and I mean FLOOD!

Trying to pet the fish in my aquarium.

Throwing rocks at the neighbors bee hive, riling them up and getting said neighbor stung.

Sitting in the neighbors cherry tree every summer and enjoying fresh fruit.

Catching baby crayfish from the pond by the handful with Regina Williams.

Catching tadpoles from the pond by the handful with Regina Williams.

Finding 100 dead tadpoles in the bucket the next day and 1 very alive Dragonfly Nymph.

Building something made of legos, turning around and finding my center desk drawer on fire.

Making 'potions' with poisonous berries.

Cutting open a cocoon, taping it back together with cellophane and finding a massively deformed giant winged dead moth in the jar a few days later.

Stringing up a shortwave radio antennae in the attic and sweating instantly from the summer heat that accumulated there.

Listening to my shortwave radio while I take my toys apart, Radio Moscow - Science Hour - 1984.

Building and launching model rockets, then in years later seeing my daughters face when hers first flew and seeing the amazement from another point of view.

Eating my farmer neighbors peppermint leaves all summer.

Watching 4 cats chase each other, in comical and cartoon style order.

Knowing exactly when and where I was when I held my first solar panel.

Sleeping on my Irish Setter, Rusty, in the summer sun, dreaming about what it's like to be a bird.

Falling down the basement stairs with an armful of nuts and bolts.

Smelling each and every circuit board that I have ever taken out of a piece of equipment.

Remembering the day Columbia exploded.  I was eating mac and cheese and like most other launches, I was 'too sick for school', so that I could stay home and watch the launch.

All of these experiences and many more that I cannot forget contribute to my work.  When I look back on a life of curiosity and discovery, I smile.  My heart is still that little boy, taking apart everything in the house and putting it back together before my parents realize that I was toying with it.

For me, personally, Scientific Method is a romantic process.  I say this because most projects that I work on are first only ideas, they exist in the ether of my or another beings mind.  From the imagination they are transported to notebook, excel chart, whiteboard or an email thread.  Participating in the project from conception to production of a tangible device is a gift.

Up until one year ago, a large part of my life (+10 years) has been spent building computer communication networks.  Theses strange worlds exist through the power of electricity and miles of cable.  Even now, as you read this message, electrons are moving across thousands of miles in an instant, delivering it to you.  Amazing.  Fantastic even.  To describe the manner that this technology works in 15th century Europe would have had a man branded insane.  As amazing as this invisible world is, I needed to get back to my experimentation roots, the hands-on life that most of us have as a child. For the past year and a half I have had the opportunity of doing just that.  I found the freedom to work on any project that I chose to become a part of.  I chose a path that would combine network systems, circuit board design, analytical thinking, hands-on play and finally troubleshooting of the solution.

With that project nearing completion, my time is focused on what I know will become my life's work:  Love and Sacrifice equations for mechatronic beings.  Holy Hannah, how do I apply Scientific Method to this weirdness?  Personally, I see at least two parts to the method.

One side has the following standard points:

Define a question

Gather information and resources (observe)

Form an explanatory hypothesis

Test the hypothesis by performing an experiment and collecting data in a reproducible manner

Analyze the data

Interpret the data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis

Publish results


The other side has emotional points:

How will my findings effect this generation?

How will my findings effect the next generation?

Will my research be used to help or hurt our existence?

Is this the best use of my time?

How much of this is art and if any of it is, what places does my psyche need to visit in order to tap into the universal energy that is guiding my path of learning and knowledge?

Seeing science, technology and art coincide and being at the center of it, do I acknowledge the possibility that a (god) single 'creator' or group of 'creators' exist, if yes, how do I honor her, him, it, them, when I find success in life as I define it?

Will I find a lover who realizes on one hand the time and energy that must be dedicated to my pursuit, on the other hand how very important her partnership means to me?

Finally, out of the myriad of theories and ideas floating around the world, can mine traverse secular ground and find it's way out of the mundane commercial environment and live in a place of respect within the scientific community?

Thats all for now, thank you Rachel for tossing that question to the world.  Anyone seriously answering will have a nice chance for introspection.  Cheers!

No comments:

Post a Comment