Observably Confounding

Useful in a scientific sense means that the idea has observable consequences. That means it has some kind of effect that can be detected by carrying out an experiment. By “experiment,” we mean any measurement of anything at all; the swing of a pendulum, the color of light emitted by a burning candle flame, or the collisions of subatomic particles in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (we’ll come back to this experiment later on). If there are no observable consequences of an idea, then the idea is not necessary to understand the workings of the universe, although it might have some sort of chimerical value in making us feel better.

— Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw, Why Does E=mc2?, Da Capo Press (2009), pp. 11 & 12

I wonder how much confusion is caused by the tendency of scientists to confound the observable with the measurable. (Is there an experiment we could perform to elucidate the matter?)

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment