# B Examples of discoveries without a hypothesis?

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1. Apr 7, 2018

### RobertSpencer

The scientific method is HYPOTHESIS -> EXPERIMENT -> ANALYZE -> CONCLUSION.

There are special cases where there is no HYPOTHESIS.

Can you give some examples of things discovered without giving a HYPOTHESIS?

That is, they do an experiment and they discover something new without a hypothesis?

Any famous examples?

2. Apr 7, 2018

### Staff: Mentor

Hmm, I am not sure. If there is no hypothesis then could what follows be termed an experiment? Wouldn’t it simply be observations and not an experiment?

3. Apr 7, 2018

### Staff: Mentor

X-rays hadn't been a hypothesis nor was it in experiment. I think this is a case in which Röntgen simply discovered them. Rutherford's $\alpha$ radiation might be a similar case.

4. Apr 7, 2018

### Orodruin

Staff Emeritus
The discovery of the cosmic microwave background.

5. Apr 7, 2018

### Orodruin

Staff Emeritus
Also antibiotics.

6. Apr 7, 2018

7. Apr 7, 2018

### Staff: Mentor

Einstein's special relativity -- experimental evidence came first. Einstein explained it after the fact with a theory.

Einstein's general relativity -- Einstein's theory came first, experimental evidence (such as the curvature of the light of stars as it passes the sun) came later.

There's no referee saying that you have to do things in a specific order.

8. Apr 7, 2018

Staff Emeritus
Superconductivity.

9. Apr 7, 2018

### rootone

Gravity?
Falling apples had been observed to fall always down not up, for a long time before Newton proposed how that could be.

Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
10. Apr 7, 2018

### Staff: Mentor

Well, he was doing an experiment at the time regarding cathode ray tubes, and I assume that he had a hypothesis for that experiment. But it certainly had nothing to do with X-rays. So there was an experiment and there was a hypothesis but it was not related to the important discovery. So I am not sure how to classify that.

Here there wasn’t an experiment or a hypothesis, just a discovery. So that is a little cleaner.

Edit: I guess what I am saying is that it is clear that you can make discoveries without an experiment, but it is not clear to me that you could have an experiment without a hypothesis.

Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
11. Apr 7, 2018

### rootone

Well you could stick your arm into a pond of hungry piranha to see what happened, but I guess you still would have to start with a hypothesis.

12. Apr 7, 2018

### Staff: Mentor

There was another important discovery, however, in a sort of experiment. Washing hands before treating patients! Unbelievable but true. I think it was Semmelweis who discovered that the rate of postpartum infections significantly dropped, if he washed his hands before helping at birth. By the way against the habits of his time as well as against the opinion of his colleagues. He didn't have a hypothesis as bacteria have been unknown in these days.

13. Apr 7, 2018

Staff Emeritus
Isotope effect in superconductors. The paper begins "The existence of a small amount of Hg-198 at the National Bureau of Standards prompted us to investigate its properties as a superconductor"

14. Apr 7, 2018

### phinds

using microwaves to cook food ... GREAT discovery (invention?) but was discovered via a chocolate bar, not a hypothesis.

15. Apr 7, 2018

### Staff: Mentor

In the examples above (penicillin, microwave cooking, X-rays, ...) the discovery happened without a hypothesis, but a hypothesis followed very rapidly. For example, the step from the observation that the bacteria next to the mold dies to the hypothesis that the mold is killing the bacteria is so obvious after the fact that we may overlook it, but it's still there and needed to take the next step on the way to antibiotics.

Without that step, the observation won't be turn into a breakthrough. An example might be Fizeau observing relativistic velocity addition in 1851. A decade before Maxwell's electrodynamics and without Einstein's insight a half-century later, there was no way to turn it into a useful hypothesis, so it went unnoticed and unexploited.

16. Apr 7, 2018

Staff Emeritus
Bakelite.
Rogaine.
The pacemaker.
Teflon.
Viagra.

Many artificial sweeteners. (One reason they are so much sweeter than sugar is that it';s easier to discover them by accident that way)

17. Apr 7, 2018

### Staff: Mentor

18. Apr 7, 2018

### rootone

The Sunlight goes away every day, but it always returns.
People die if they are under water for a while.
Saturn has 'ears'
Beer is good to get a relaxed feeling.

19. Apr 7, 2018

### Keith_McClary

20. Apr 7, 2018

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
You need to look for the “Who Ordered That?” Discoveries.

Superconductivity is one of many examples.

Zz.

Last edited: Apr 8, 2018