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Pinned 3 months 3 weeks ago onto Scientific Method

Particle Physics

Source: http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/how-to-make-a-discovery

Symmetry: "Particle physics is a dance between theory and experiment." #FermiLab

'“The scientific method was not invented overnight,” says Joseph Incandela, vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “People used to think completely differently. They thought if it was beautiful it had to be true. It took many centuries for people to realize that this is how you must approach the acquisition of true knowledge that you can verify.”

For particle physicists, says Robert Cahn, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the scientific method isn’t so much going from hypothesis to conclusion, but rather “an exploration in which we measure with as much precision as possible a variety of quantities that we hope will reveal something new.

“We build a big accelerator and we might have some ideas of what we might discover, but it’s not as if we say, ‘Here’s the hypothesis and we’re going to prove or disprove it. If there’s a scientific method, it’s something much broader than that.”

Scientific inquiry is more of a continuing conversation between theorists and experimentalists, says Chris Quigg, a distinguished scientist emeritus at Fermilab.

“Theorists in particular spend a lot of time telling stories, making up ideas or elaborating ideas about how something might happen,” he says. “There’s an evolution of our ideas as we engage in dialogue with experiments.”

An important part of the process, he adds, is that the scientists are trained never to believe their own stories until they have experimental support.

“We are often reluctant to take our ideas too seriously because we’re schooled to think about ideas as tentative,” Quigg says. “It’s a very good thing to be tentative and to have doubt. Otherwise you think you know all the answers, and you should be doing something else.”

It’s also good to be tentative because “sometimes we see something that looks tantalizingly like a great discovery, and then it turns out not to be,” Cahn says.'

+ How to make a discovery (2017):
+ http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/how-to-make-a-discovery

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