Monday, January 3, 2011

Feynman On Legitimate Scientific Theories.

In the short video above, Feynman hits the nail on the head describing how a scientist goes about formulating a new theory. (As he so often does.)

I hear people tell me, ever so often, things like: "My theory is that the universe is really a giant black hole" or "my theory is that the reason the universe is expanding is there is yet undetected matter heating up and causing expansion like when bread rises in the oven."

There isn't anything wrong with musing over such ideas but, if you want to be a real scientist you now need to go further and work out the consequences of your theory in a way that we can test it.  And your test must be one where your theory has a chance of being falsified otherwise it is not good science.

Now I'm not saying that all non-scientific ideas are foolish! Some supposed friends of science take this concept way too far.  For example, I'm not so sure you can classify the statement that a man should "not be judged by the color of [his] skin but by the content of [his] character" as a scientific statement.  But I sure believe it as much as Dr. King hoped I would.

But what I am saying is that if you want to feel you have a legitimate scientific theory you need to have one where consequences have been worked out so that we can practically verify or falsify the theory.


  1. What an amazing character, that Feynman.

  2. Feynman on problem solving:
    1. Write down the problem.
    2. Think very hard.
    3. Write down the solution.

    Brilliant indeed!

    Oh, and yes, I agree, we have got to put our theories to the test or we're all just blowing smoke!


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