Scientific Thinking LO21931

Winfried Dressler (
Thu, 17 Jun 1999 11:08:56 +0100

Replying to LO21909 --

Leo wrote

>I would like to start with the crap detector (D3 of At de Lange), since it
>is much easier to find crap than to find gems (that is why gems are gems).

and followed to exemplify that gems and crap are the two sides of the same

Dear Leo,

I think it is quite a time ago that I responded directly to one of your
contributions. I very much enjoy your journeys and they make me meander in
my mind as well, but meandering in my mind and writing about it are two
different things...

The question we are facing here is: What makes a gem to be a gem and not
crap? Your approach is to distinguish by means of filters.

I think you are right, but also too general. For we are talking about the
scientific method observation-speculation-falsification, we have the
specific filter given: The value of an observation as a gem is given by
its power to generate speculation. Crap (at the stage of observation) is
all already fully digested knowledge, observations with no element of
surprise or disturbance in it, no entropic force left.

One example is gold: Is it realy the material properties of gold that
makes it so valuable? What about the power of gold to generate

Another example in physics: At the end of last century, physicists
believed that the "building of physics" is nealy completed - in principle
we knew everything. Only a few clouds at the horizon had to be cleared.
Only? Those clouds proved to be the gems. And quantum mechanics and
relativity theory emerged by powerful speculation (and a huge
falsification effort).

At the stage of observation we are out to look for such gems. We are not
yet in a position to really filter, more a hint on where to go to sieve.

Before quantum mechanics the gem where those clouds of unexplained (by
classical physics) data. The gem detector asked which kind of data could
not be explained. The gem I think you had in mind was the completed
quantum mechanics. This gem quantum mechanics emerged and grew to maturity
as we know it today by means of the whole process of scientific thinking.

For the phase of speculation, Einstein was lead by a beauty-detector: Make
it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Liebe Gruesse,



"Winfried Dressler" <>

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