popsicleA while back, my daughter entered a project into her school’s science fair.  Being a dabbler in the physical sciences, I was looking forward to seeing the results of her experiment, which was to measure the effects of earthquake-like motion on different shapes.

The short story was that while she worked to prove (or disprove) her hypothesis, the experiments were riddled with limitations and frankly, conclusions that lacked the ability for replication.  It was a valiant effort and got her a passing grade, but not what I would have termed “science”.

However, the value wasn’t necessarily in her ability or inability to prove her hypothesis but in learning about the scientific method and how we can apply it to solving our problems.  Her efforts to solve the dilemma of buildings going to ground in some seismic event weren’t going to win her a Nobel prize, but just maybe she will now see the need to consider all the facts for her effort to be considered reliable.  Was the motion consistent for each trial?  Were the connection points uniformly fastened? Was the model sufficiently secured to the device that created the seismic event?

No, it was looking back on how to go through the process in a logical fashion and to consider the effects of each situation on the experiment that made it worthwhile.  The real conclusion had nothing to do with collapsing structures and more to do with considering alternatives and in asking better questions.  We need to remember that it isn’t the pot that is useful, but in the space created within.  Open your mind to all of the aspects of our issues.  That’s how we solve problems.

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