Questions to Nature

Scientific research can be thought of as a process of asking questions of Nature. Perhaps it’s worth exploring that concept in a little more detail.

It is true that many scientific advances have started with a question. And the process of research can be considered a way of asking Nature questions. But the kind of questions that we can ask Nature are very specific.

First, the obvious: Nature doesn’t have a voice. Interviews are out. So we need to look for evidence instead.

The language that I’m using resembles a criminal investigation, and that’s deliberate. Scientific research is in fact very much like forensic work. We look for evidence, we analyse things that we observe, we try to find patterns and unravel processes. Forensics is all about mechanisms: how the crime was perpetrated.  However, there’s usually an accompanying part of a criminal investigation, and that is the literal question-and-answer stuff. By interviewing a suspect, the investigator can try to unravel the question of motive. Forensics, for all its strengths, is powerless to address “why” questions. This, again, is like science.

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These goats are awesome

I realise that yesterday’s post spent a long time dwelling on unpleasant aspects of the animal kingdom, but I don’t take a negative view of nature. On the contrary, I am continually astounded by the splendour of the natural world. As but one example of just how awesome Creation is, let me offer a set of pictures of goats.

This is the wall of Cingino Dam in the Italian Alps:

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