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Unformatted text preview: Observation in Science
S&TS 201 "What is Science?" Science, Technology, Medicine, and the Senses TOUCH - adjusting instruments, Newton's Apple, computer mouse, feeling pulse, cutting skin, feeling for organs by palpation, etc SOUND sonar, stethoscope, animal sounds, meteorology, etc SMELL - chemistry (hydrogen sulfide, acetones), food science, when things go wrong (gas leaks), medicine (smelling patient's breath) etc. TASTE - food science, chemistry, geology, more? SIGHT - Everywhere! Sound? Can same considerations about "seeing" be applied to listening? Is listening active, a skill and theory laden? Learning to listen "correctly" is a skill, it is active and assumptions are built into listening. Think of learning to appreciate music by learning what to listen for. Studio engineers, producers and musicians must have "good ears" e.g. Stevie Wonder Same true for taste and smell? Think of wine and perfume. Same true for touch? Think of learning braille, kicking a soccer ball, playing a musical instrument, tweaking a scientific instrument. Observation Rules OK In science observation is taken to be the most important sense. When do we become aware of "seeing" or "observation" in science? Learning to see for the first time: looking into a microscope Polanyi on medical students learning to read X-rays. a naturalist learning to observe a fish (see Scudder in course reader) Using a new instrument for the first time: Galileo and the telescope Solar-neutrino "telescope" (more later) Seeing new objects for the first time
pulsars corn circles When an area of science is discredited e.g. gendered views of skeletons in nineteenth century anatomy text-books (Londa Schiebinger in course reader) Some different ways observations are made in science: Observations made with the naked eye or with the aid of visual enhancing instruments such as microscopes and telescopes. O'METERS Measuring Instruments with one or more scalar variable, like clocks and rulers, often called "ometers": thermometer, barometer, galvanometer, micrometer, etc. The readings from these instruments can be observed with the naked eye. The emeter Detectors Detectors which detect presence or absence or pathways taken e.g. litmus paper, lime water (for CO2), cloud chambers which trace particles. The traces can be observed with naked eye. From Naked Eye observations to Inscriptions Measuring instruments can produce graphical traces (they often incorporate a device such as an automatic chart recorder or a digital display for producing a graphical trace of one or more variables). It is this graphical trace which we "observe" Observations with the eye and other forms of radiation (e.g. X-Rays) can be turned into photographs or other 2D (or sometimes 3D) rich structured pictures (with multiple colors). e.g. scanning electron micrographs, Xray plates, spectrographs, DNA-typing and ultrasound. It is these displays or copies of them which we "observe" Inscription Devices An inscription device is a piece of apparatus or an instrument which translates the complex reality of the world into simplified inscriptions which are visible and can be inspected by other scientists. Inscriptions are often graphical in form (increasingly digitized) and are reproducible and transportable. Most instruments in science are inscription devices in this sense. It is clear that seeing is mediated by instruments in most of science. Also true for medicine (e.g. thermometer, cardiogram, the heart beats of foetal monitoring, ultrasound, x-rays of cancerous tissues and so on). PENCIL? Q: What about the pencil? "a pencil is one of the best of eyes" (Agassiz quoted in Scudder in course reader). A pencil can be thought of as an inscription device - a way of turning the complex reality of the world into a simplified form of data which can be inspected by other scientists - inscriptions are REPRODUCIBLE & TRANSPORTABLE. In Science Observations are Theory laden and Practice Laden A practice-laden observation is one where what is observed depends upon the practices followed by the scientist making the observation. An Example From Modern Science The attempt to Detect Solar Neutrinos ...
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This note was uploaded on 11/06/2007 for the course S&TS 2011 taught by Professor Pinch,t. during the Spring '06 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).
- Spring '06