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Comment: Re:Maybe science went off the rails... (Score 1) 396

by danbert8 (#49784947) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

For me, I am looking for a basic reasoning in an experiment. 1) They came up with an actual concept to test. 2) They made a hypothesis based on some sort of reasoning. 3) They determined what they actually had to measure to test this hypothesis. 4) They developed a procedure to isolate that measurement from other variables. 5) They took a critical look at the data. 6) They drew a valid conclusion from that data.

These are surprisingly rare things at science fairs. The highest scores I have given have been to projects where their conclusion was that they were unable to confirm or deny their hypothesis. This is the same problem as the premise of this article, that people believe science has to conclude something. No, some of the best science out there concludes that no conclusion can be drawn from the experiments. It doesn't mean you failed, it means that you either need to refine your test or look for other explanations. It is not only a perfectly good result, but it takes a lot of intellectual integrity for a student to admit that their findings were not significant. They have a very hard time articulating this, but it can be coaxed out of them.

Most students just take their data, put it in excel, have excel "best fit" a linear regression (regardless of if their data is linear) through their data and then conclude based on what is just noise in their data recording or worse, they extrapolate that line well outside of the data recorded in their experiment to make sweeping statements.

Maybe statistics should be a required course in high school... Or maybe earlier.

Comment: Re:New fangled technology (Score 1) 86

by danbert8 (#49781111) Attached to: Hyundai Now Offers an Android Car, Even For Current Owners

Yes, I purchased a new stereo. What I was pointing out is that older cars don't have anything preventing you for adding new technology. Sadly, newer cars do. Newer cars create increasingly complicated "infotainment" systems like this that are rarely upgradeable (this story is an exception, not the rule) and extremely difficult to replace. Old cars had simple usually fairly standard radios that made it easy to pop it out and upgrade technology every 10 years or so.

Comment: Re:Maybe science went off the rails... (Score 1) 396

by danbert8 (#49775189) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

An inexpensive, non-toxic example of a non-Newtonian fluid is a suspension of starch (e.g. cornstarch) in water, sometimes called "oobleck" or "ooze" (1 part of water to 1.5–2 parts of corn starch).

Kitchen goo does not necessarily involve a chemical reaction. Baking soda and vinegar is an actual chemical reaction, and frequently used as an example, but making a "volcano" out of it is hardly a science experiment.

Even if one does accept that oobleck has chemical merits due to being a non-Newtonian fluid, making it is not a science project. And yes, I have seen several of these lazy science fair projects found on Google at state level science fairs.

Comment: Re:it's not "slow and calculated torture" (Score 1) 742

by danbert8 (#49774225) Attached to: Greece Is Running Out of Money, Cannot Make June IMF Repayment

No, your analogy is flawed. Your mortgage is for 30 years, but you can't afford the payments as agreed. The bank isn't requesting anything extra fast. What they are doing is not letting you open new credit accounts to use to pay the mortgage payments. What Greece (and other countries) have been doing is taking out loans to make the payment on loans. That is not "rolling over," that is bankruptcy. Greece doesn't have the money to pay off the loans per the terms of the loan. The EU isn't changing the terms, they are just not increasing Greece's credit limit.

Comment: Re:Maybe science went off the rails... (Score 4, Interesting) 396

by danbert8 (#49774195) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

That's part of it... But I believe the biggest problem is science fairs. Once heralded as a great way to get kids involved in science and the scientific method has been ruined by a culture of excessive safety, pandering to kids, and incompetent science teachers. First, every kids science toy has been neutered by safety culture. I'm not saying we should have kits with mercury and radioactive materials like we did in the 50s, but "science" kits where you make kitchen goo instead of actual chemical reactions is lame and boring. Kids are not fooled.

Second, the increasing pressure to pass all kids or give them participation ribbons is very present at the science fair. Many kids are forced to participate, and in many fairs judges have to assign a minimum score of "good" or some such term. I have judged at the STATE LEVEL (as in, they had to do very well at the school and county levels) and have had to assign this minimum score which was still a gift. Kids come up with buzzword laden projects and make elaborate art projects that get ooohs and ahhs from non-technical people while doing no research and offering conclusions that are demonstrably wrong. Don't believe me? Go to a science fair some time and count the number of "experiments" showing ethanol has more energy content than gasoline. There are usually a dozen at the state science fair I judge. I also wonder how many projects are done primarily by the parents who don't want their kids to do poorly.

Finally, the incompetency of science teachers... This is not applicable to all teachers, but especially in poorer areas and in under performing schools, science teachers have no science background and don't understand the scientific method. They don't understand research, citations, hypotheses, or conclusions. They don't even take the time to verify experimental results with a quick Google search. The comforting thing I've noticed from judging student science projects is that most of the kids KNOW their teachers are incompetent and bullshitted their way to a good score at the science fair. At the state level, they are completely unprepared for actual questions on subject matter by professionals in the various fields. I'm a civil engineer, and I've had to shake my head in disbelief that projects are off by an order of magnitude from what they should be and it is a shock for the student to hear that as no one has reviewed or questioned their work before the state level.

What we need is a new science fair system where teachers can mentor students on projects, but teachers don't judge projects. Projects should only be judged by people familiar with the subject matter and the scientific method. If they can't scrape together the judges, maybe the science fair needs to go away or there needs to be an active campaign to recruit and support professionals to judge school science fairs. It should be no surprise that the science fair kids have grown up to do research that panders to public opinion, are lazy, have poor citations, and are filled with self-confirming results.

We have a equal opportunity Calculus class -- it's fully integrated.