different approaches to science

im of the opinion that only one of these approaches is “truly scientific,” but its useful to look at all of them, if only for the purpose of debate or clarification.

the first approach to examine is “fringe science.” if youve been accused of it, please dont turn away yet. you may not know where im going with this. what i consider “fringe science” is when people are too focused on the questions of science, and throw out any answers that go against whatever answers they are most excited about. everyone has this attitude to some degree, and a science ought to temper it. people who engage in fringe science have the answers they want, and are only interested in the possibilities that will prove them right.

at the opposite end, you have the scientific orthodoxy. rooted in academia, scientific orthodoxy is intended to “weed out” everything fringe, everything unsupported, everything unproven. at this level, it can keep science “pure.” what i consider “scientific orthodoxy” is when people are too focused on the answers of science, and are not very interested in questions that go to new (or undeveloped) places in our knowledge. if fringe science is like impressionist painting, then orthodoxy is like a digital telescope– it can go so far, at great resolution, but it has no imagination to fuel new theories so much as showcase what it knows.

fringe science has too little in the way of discipline or serious study, while orthodoxy is uncreative and doesnt want to advance without following the great orthodoxy. i believe both of these attitudes are real and unscientific; the first thing the orthodoxy does with brilliant new ideas is throw them out on the street, and  the first thing the fringe does is explain why the new idea “proves” all theyve ever said before.

but then you have the truly brilliant scientific minds, which are tempered by scientific practice and also incredibly creative. no “genius” is perfect, and the best science makes mistakes (and learns from them.) the hallmark of a true scientist is an open mind, and also an honest thirst for knowledge and for understanding things as close to accurately as possible. science is not “getting the answer right” but “finding answers.” and that means looking for them, not the mere recital of facts.

people who speak of science tend to lean towards orthodoxy or lean towards the fringe. that seems to satisfy most people, so perhaps 60 or more percent of people that use the word “science” are happy with a fringe or orthodox attitude. but a smaller percentage of people care about both the questions and the answers– these to me are the “true scientists” of the world. of course you can point out that the phrase “true scientist” is itself a fallacy– thats fine, but we can probably agree that science at least has a useful definition; and by extension, definitions that fall short of useful.

scientists are explorers, but they are also navigators. they dont merely set out, but use the world around them to find out where they are. they dont just invent claims, they also try them out rigorously. they dont just try out claims and dispute things, but they also come up with ideas (fueled by both knowledge and imagination.) and they dont mock creative thinking, because they rely on it themselves.

which isnt to say that “fringe science” doesnt exist, but its the stuffed-shirt orthodoxy that talks about it as much as anyone, as if creativity is something that should be stamped out rather than channeled through a more scientific process. getting everyone else to shut up about their ideas is a true hallmark of orthodoxy, not of science.




one more hour of saturday

time is a funny thing to measure. among other things, we use the rotation of the earth around its axis, and the earth around the sun. at least one of these is slowing down imperceptibly, and therefore weve had to adjust the standard definition of what a second is for the sake of accuracy.

the definition of time is strained by a need for consistency– on the one end, we have to make our concept of time fit a calendar based on celestial movement; we have to make all our tiniest units “add up” to broader ones, so that a second fits into a year the way that an inch fits into a mile. but for both scientific and military purposes, we need units that measure time on a much more precise scale than 1/3155760000th of a century. and so at this scale, we define time (and with it, the standard for the second) based on the vibrations of matter or energy particles.

im fine with all that, and the “quibbling” over the definition of second (or how many fit into an always-imperfect solar calendar) that is necessary to have units of measure that keep up with scientifically advanced time-keeping technology. leap years are fine, leap seconds (we had one at the end of last year) are likely necessary. its kind of too bad, but there it is. similarly, it is probably impossible to get time zones “just right.” we could all just go by utc. but then, we already have utc if we need it.

but none of that has anything to do with the political asininity that is daylight savings time. and i simply refuse to endorse it. by all means– you pretend its an hour later, and go back to what time it really is for less than half of a year after. if you tell me its an hour later than it is, and theres no good scientific reason for it, i think youre a silly person. and indeed, if most of the country does so, then i think theyre silly, too. you know who isnt as silly? (at least in this regard,) arizona– hawaii– guam, puerto rico, and the virgin islands, among others.

other states are adopting dst as a cheap way to change or join time zones permanently. i guess its easier than changing the official time zone maps, but those are (still!) published in the phone book (yeah, theres still a paper phone book…) and once your dst changes to all-year-round, the old time zone map isnt really accurate anyway.

i dont know where the line on this silliness is supposed to be drawn– if congress decided that every other day would add and subtract 25 minutes, would people finally relent, just because their clocks could adjust automatically? we have the technology, but wouldnt it be terribly stupid, and a little pointless, not to mention extremely confusing?

i know where i draw the line– at the necessary scientific definition of seconds and years, and required adjustments to the calendar. i dont go for this daylight savings absurdity. but you may! i have to keep track of the fact that youre all pretending its an hour later right now, and i do– but im not going to pretend with you. you silly people have a wonderful “time.” i will just alter the daily schedule, for the same ridiculous and arbitrary reasons that you change clocks as if the hour were really different. hey, you know what? maybe it wont be sunday after all– perhaps we can refer to sunday as “wednesday” for half the year! then sometime in winter, we can refer to wednesday as “sunday” again.