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Unit 1: What is Science?

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Charles Dorman

on 14 September 2015

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Transcript of Unit 1: What is Science?

What is science?
A method (or set of methods)
The body of information that results from that method
A way to avoid fooling yourself
A refinement of everyday thinking
WHAT scientific method?
There are many...
Scientific method a.k.a.
Try it and see

Which is simpler?

Physics: Simplification by conflation
Beach example
Newton's 1st unification theory
Pseudoscience example
Equality in physics
Science as a tool to avoid fooling yourself
Demonstrating repeatability (Nessie video)...
Using a control
Double-blind tests
Varying only one variable at a time
Investigating a possible 3rd variable...
Correlation does not imply causation
The more firemen fighting a fire,
the bigger the fire is observed to be.
Therefore, firemen cause an increase in the size of a fire.
Some of those standards
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Whether there's a plausible mechanism to support the claim

A standard in this class: one lie

Occam's razor, a.k.a. the law of parsimony...
Occam's Razor
When you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.
Increased pressure is associated with increased temperature.
Therefore pressure causes temperature.
Correlation does not imply causation
Sleeping with one's shoes on is strongly correlated with waking up with a headache.
Therefore, sleeping with one's shoes on causes headache.
Correlation does not imply causation
As ice cream sales increase, the rate of drowning deaths increases sharply.
Therefore, ice cream consumption causes drowning.
Correlation does not imply causation
Young children who sleep with the light on are much more likely to develop myopiea in later life.
Therefore, sleeping with the light on causes myopia.
Correlation does not imply causation
A hypothetical study shows a relationship between test anxiety scores and shyness scores, with a statistical r value (strength of correlation) of +.59.
Therefore, it may be simply concluded that shyness, in some part, causally influences test anxiety.
Correlation does not imply causation
Since the 1950s, both the atmospheric CO level and obesity levels have increased sharply.
Hence, atmospheric CO causes obesity.
Correlation does not imply causation
HDL ("good") cholesterol is negatively correlated with incidence of heart attack.
Therefore, taking medication to raise HDL will decrease the chance of having a heart attack.
Correlation does not imply causation
Logical fallacy: post hoc, ergo propter hoc

(after this, therefore because of this)

But there may be a hidden third variable
that you're not considering.
Correlation does not imply causation
Putting parsimony in context
Everything should be made as simple
as possible... but no simpler.

For example...
Fooled by randomness
Our propensity for confabulation leads us to
see patterns where they don't exist.
Fooled by randomness
Unlikely events are numerous, and therefore ubiquitous.

Therefore, you can't use the data that SUGGESTED a theory to you to TEST that same theory it suggested.
Fooled by randomness
On the way in, I saw license plate ARW 347.
Amazing! What are the odds?!...
psychic dreams, cure for cold, hot hand
If one group says A is true and the other group says A is false, how do you resolve the conflict when both sides' logic is equally powerful?
Get the empirical to resolve it
run an experiment (in context: data too complex)
F's how to devise a theory
The question of certainty
Likelihood vs. certainty
Likelihood, not probability
The question of bias/prejudice in a scientist
Inflexible? Responds to mounting evidence?
In perspective: repeated tests may be too expensive

26x26x26x10x10x10 = 17,576,000
Stat class: new data when
run new hypoth test
youtube dot com/watch?v=iR1iKF83VQ0
youtube dot com/watch?v=YAV2w1aPQUc
How does truth relate to what scientists do, if the
answering of one questions leads to several more?
While science is a pursuit of truth, no honest scientist claims to have found the truth. Usefulness and predictive power are measures of theories and models, not so much whether they are “true.”
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