Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Notorious Encounters the Scientific Method

Step 1: Make an observation & ask a question:

With one exception, I haven't taken science classes since I was 15. Yet I love science books. I wonder if I could do an actual college-level science class. Is the fact that I'm a historian really due to innate skill in one area versus another? Or just some random result of taking one fork in the road instead of the other? If I'd applied myself in another direction, could I have been successful in this other field?

Step 2: Formulate a testable hypothesis:

Hypothesis: The same combination of intelligence and dedication can make one equally successful in two diverse academic fields.

Step 3: Develop and perform an experiment to test the hypothesis:

3.a: Enroll in my friend's "Biology for science majors" course.
3.b: Do work
3.c: take quizzes and exams

Step 4: Record and analyze results to see if they support (not "prove" -- I learned that last week!) the hypothesis:

On the first 13-question chapter quiz, on the chemical basis of life, I answered 8 of 13 questions correctly. Two of those correct answers were lucky guesses.

Results: the results of this experiment do not seem to support the hypothesis. Possible reasons:
  • The experiment design is flawed: there is a sample size of 1.
  • The experiment design is flawed: there is no control group.
  • The experiment design is flawed: conditions did not account for other independent variables such as the subject's completion (or not) of the readings, or her understanding of precisely which chapters the quiz was to cover, or the fact that she did not take the course prerequiste (intro to chemistry).
  • The hypothesis is false: as a historian, I am right where I'm supposed to be.


La Fletcher said...

Since I wandered into Science Librarianship from medieval studies and work at a university that allows me to take undergrad classes for $50 a pop, I've been thinking about taking a few classes to supplement my "on the job training" and learn more about the basics of scientific research but yeah. All the classes I've looked at so far have prereqs that include classes I tested out of to avoid during my BA and when I've looked at some of the previous quizzes/exams given in those classes I balked! What am I thinking! I can't learn Physics! I'm a English major! Good luck to you, though. :D

Susan said...

But you've learned about scientific method. It's a different way of thinking, and I think it's often useful to understand its assumptions and process....

And you're a brave woman to take on a class while teaching full time!

Comradde PhysioProffe said...

The issue isn't your intrinsic capacity to master the material. It's that you have forgotten or never learned foundational material required to master the material of this course. But you know that!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Comrade, I think you're right there, and that it's a bit of both: Some I've forgotten, and some I never learned (my year of high-school chemistry being heavy on the "chemistry" and "high" but with very little "school.")