19 August 2005

Science discovers the obvious....again

Being an engineer by trade, I look down on scientists because, without engineering, everything they come up with would be unusable. And they get paid less. However, my scientist friends argue that if it wasn't for science, there would be nothing for engineers to do. So I guess we're stuck with each other.

The government bemoans the falling number of people doing science-based subjects at school and university. Part of the reason is because they get paid nothing and part is because of what gets called research these days.

How the government (note the lower case?) expects to have more scientists when they throw money at projects whose aim is to determine how high one must be when jumping onto a spike before it becomes lifethreatening?

This is a silly example, but every week in the news you see a headline like "Eating rocks is bad for you, research shows" and "Don't fall under buses, scientists claim". Almost without exception, everything they've "discovered" is something we've taken to be self-evident for quite some time.

Plus, scientists are always positive they're found the answer to everything, until next week, when some other experiment shows it to be a sack of horses business, or they realise they were looking at the numbers upside down, or they'd forgotten the twenty pages of assumptions they'd had to make in order to make any sense of it at all.

Any research that produces a interesting result like "Drinking Coke increases chance of lottery win, scientists find" is devalued when it is appended by "Research funded by The Coca Cola Company". How can science be objective if it's funded by organisations who proscribe the results?

All this means that when Science unearths anything at all, we are Stunned. But we're stil waiting to be Stunned.

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