Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Observational Science and you

Some will try to tell you that science is based on theory and experimentation. Yet vast amounts of scientific knowledge and conclusion is based on observation alone. Of course to be scientific observation is combined with record keeping, logical analysis of data gathered, efforts to refine and objectify the observation, sharing information with other scientist, and repeated observation. This is critical for observation to be considered scientific.

To be scientific, others must be able to repeat the observation, or view records that have been made of observed events. Weather, (Meteorology), Astronomy, Oceanography, Geology, the list is long of observable nature and branches of science that study nature. Experiments are limited, so science will focus on better ways to observe and record what is occurring, to gain understanding of the nature of our Universe.

Oh, but what about you? The reader of these words, that would be you, right now, at this very moment, a scientific event is happening. You, or more precisely, the computer you are using, as well as other factors, is being recorded. Your attention has become a matter of science, a record is being made. The time, the place, the type of computer, the browser, all are being added to a scientific database of information about this page.

Don't worry, your privacy isn't being violated, no personal data is being recorded, your Internet number (IP address) isn't recorded, or available to myself, or anyone else reading here.

This data is only being studied by myself. It is most interesting because I have made no effort to publicize or announce these humble efforts. And unless you say something, I don't have any scientific knowledge of how you came to be spending your time reading here.

And due to the limited amount of data that is actually recorded, it is possible that nobody has read anything, that the page loaded onto your computer, but was not viewed. To the mindless server that is gathering the traffic data, it is the same event.

One way I can learn more is to have you input information, by adding a comment, where you become part of the science, rather than just an observer. That nobody has, is understandable. I wouldn't either, if this was somebody else's blog.

Because you are, at this point in time, a small part of a data set, you will know more than most if I do a scientific thing, and share information with you. At this exact moment, according to the best information I can gather, here is what I know about you, the anonymous eyeballs out there in the world.

Where you are (at this moment)
United States47 (92.16%)
United Kingdom2 (3.92%)
Austria1 (1.96%)
Germany1 (1.96%)

What Browser you are using:
Firefox (80.39%)
Internet Explorer 7.08 (15.69%)
Internet Explorer 6.01 (1.96%)
Safari 523.12.21 (1.96%)

OS Count
WinXP50 (98.04%)
MacOSX1 (1.96%)

So, in regards to observational science and you, by looking at this information, somebody can make conclusions, based on the evidence presented.

The most obvious is that one person using a Mac (I envy you) viewed a page. Because I have data from the past, I know that same viewer used Safari 523.12.2 to load a page. I suspect you are in England, based on other data.

None of this is proof. It is a conclusion based on observation, drawing on limited data. The data could be flawed, my interpretation could be flawed. To know with certainty, in a scientific sense, all factors that might distort the information have to be corrected, or accounted for.

This doesn't mean it isn't a scientific conclusion, conclusions based on available knowledge are often wrong. As more data is gathered, our understanding will increase, and at some point, in regards to some things, we can reach a level of surety, where the matter will not be "do we know", but more along the lines of "how do we know", "why did it happen", "can we predict future events", and other questions. Science marches on.

And that is it for this Wednesday morning. If you have slogged all the way down here reading this, thank you. I don't know who you are, and you may not know who I am, but you certainly seem interested. That is a wonderful quality in a human being.

That you are a human being, I would say with 100% certainty. Some things we know to be true. Of course I could be wrong, and you are an alien from another planet, which means I was 100% wrong. But if that is the case, I don't care! It means that an alien is reading my blog, and understands written English, and that scientific discovery is so huge nobody will care that I was wrong about saying you were human.

Do you think there is even the slightest chance of that?

Based on my knowledge, I would say no. But I could be wrong.

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