Everyone is a Scientist
It’s true: Everyone is a scientist. It’s just that most people don’t realise it. A scientist is someone who tackles a problem through scientific methods, and we all do! Hear me out!
Think of it this way: You have connected your phone to a charger but nothing happens. You ask the question: “Why won’t my phone charge?” You then come up with some ideas as to why. “Maybe the power point doesn’t work. It could be the charger, or maybe something is wrong with my phone.” So how do you figure out which is the problem? It’s easy right, you try another power point. Still doesn’t work? Then you try another charger. Still not working? Then you connect another phone and – a-ha! – The other phone is charging, so it must be that there is something wrong with your phone (not that that’s a particularly desirable finding, but it’s a finding nonetheless).
Ever been in this or a similar situation? Congratulations. You’re a scientist.
What? How am I a scientist?
When people think of science they might picture someone with glasses in a lab coat, slaving away in a lab – endlessly pipetting as tirelessly depicted in scientist photo shoots.
*By the way, when I searched flickr for an image of a ‘scientist’ – they pretty much proved my point. Even more so if you Google image it.
(Image credit: mars_discovery_district, Jennifer Rouse and Novartis AV [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via Flickr)
What people tend to forget is that ‘science’ is a way of thinking. Quoting Google definition, science is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” – which is an extremely long-winded way of saying that purely – science is a systematic approach to solving a problem.
Whad’ya know. So I guess science isn’t just labs and beakers.
No siree! Science is made up of a series of elements: Questions, hypotheses, predictions, experiments, analyses, and conclusions. Returning to my example above:
- Question: Why won’t my phone charge?
- Hypothesis: My charger is broken.
- Prediction: If my charger is broken then using another charger will fix my problem.
- Experiment: Try another charger.
- Analysis: Used another charger – phone still did not charge.
- Conclusion: My hypothesis was not supported – my charger is not broken.
Without even realising it, people use these elements to solve problems. Whether it be “Why won’t the internet work?”, “Why won’t my pen work?” or “Why does my food keep going missing from the tearoom fridge?”, we use problem solving (science!) on a daily basis.
I think a lot of people don’t realise that the scientific method is not a rigid set of rules. It can chop and change as necessary and still be scientific. See, the beauty of the scientific method is that it can loop back on itself. More often than not observations from experiments lead to new questions, or maybe the observations can lead to new, previously unconsidered hypotheses. From there you may design new experiments and so on and so forth.
Okay, so I’m not denying that the questions that those who devote their life to science, might just be a little trickier, but just because we don’t all employ our scientific thinking to discover “How can we cure cancer?” or “Are there additional dimensions?” does not mean we aren’t scientists.
I think that if more people realised science is not such a mysterious complicated territory, but simply a way of thinking, people may feel like they can engage with it more.
So spread the love, make people realise that science isn’t such a kooky phenomenon only performed by the socially awkward brainiacs, but something to be embraced by all.