Friday, November 09, 2012

You Can Teach Yourself To Think Like A Scientist - Part 1

It's true, and it isn't that difficult at all!

I'm going to start a series of essays on the things I see everyday in which the person involved either were using the same analytical technique as a scientist would, or the person simply dropped the ball and did not really thought things through as a scientist would. What I'm hoping to show here is that in our everyday lives, we DO make some decision in what to choose, what to believe in, and what to accept as valid. In many cases, these things come instinctively, or they have to be thought out a bit more. However, depending on what methodology we use to arrive at a conclusion, what we accept be not be valid because of the flaw in our reasoning or analysis. And I'm not going to restrict myself just with examples from science. I'm going to point out reasonings, methodologies, flaw in logic, etc.. from all and any parts of our daily lives as I can find.

But to start out with, we'll go back to the world of science and see what we have here. In a post in the Physics Forums, a member asked this question:

Why is it that lower frequency EM waves are aloud to pass through objects, but high..

... frequency are absorbed, like gamma rays. I would think it would be the opposite. So whats the physical reason?
Ignoring the spelling mistake, and without providing an answer to this question, there are already flawed methodology here in which the person who asked this question did not follow.

First is the "general rule" that this person appear to have observed, which is (to paraphrase):

Low frequency EV wave has more penetrating power than high frequency EM wave.

We are then asked to explain this. But wait a second! Is this true? As scientists, before we answer a question, we have to examine what that question is asking, and whether that question itself is true! This is because, if you try to answer a question that is based on faulty premises, then you're wasting your time on something that isn't true! So let's examine this then.

Now, presumably, this person is quite familiar with x-rays. After all, many of us has had to have one for one reason or another. x-rays have higher frequency than, say, visible light. Yet, we know for a fact that x-rays are more penetrating in our bodies than visible light. What just happened here? I've just given an example that thoroughly contradicts the assertion made in the question. I've shown something where a lower frequency is NOT more penetrating than a higher frequency EM radiation. And I've used an example that practically everyone is familiar with, not some exotic physics experiments that only someone with a PhD can comprehend! In other word, if you think you've drawn some sort of a conclusion, see if you can find an example that contradicts that conclusion. If you do, then it should cause you to ponder, at the very least, if your conclusion is universally valid, valid most of the time, valid some of the time, only works in a special case, or it is truly nonsensical.

Now, as scientists, we always try to see if there are any contradictions to things that we thought we understood. If we have a "rule" or theory that we go by with, and then see something that does not seem to fit that description, this means that our understanding or rule either may not be complete, or that something may be governed by descriptions that are different. In fact, contrary to popular beliefs, scientists LOVE such contradictions, because it means that there are things we don't understand and still need to be studied - things things keep us fascinated AND employed!

The moral of the story here is that, even without understanding the physics of what is going on here, a person without any physics knowledge can already do his/her own self-diagnosis and, at the very least, realize that the assertion made in the question is really false. Low frequency EM radiation does NOT ALWAYS penetrate a material more than high frequency EM radiation. One does this simply by being aware of already-established knowledge that most people already know. This is what I mean by thinking things through analytically, and in this case, using just common knowledge. We all posses this ability, but some of us have it more honed than others. It is this ability that needs to be brought out more often, and more deliberately.



Y.H.N. said...

Really looking forward to part II of this series and hopefully beyond.

Andrew said...

Yo Zapper.
Looking forward to your series.

-Did not really (thought) things through.
-Appear(s) to have observed.
-in other word(s).
-What we accept (be) not be valid.

...... Appear(s) the "Physics Forum" poster is not unique in spelling & grammar errors.