The Most Important Scientific Concept To Understand

In summary: I'm always reminded of this quote by Einstein: "God does not play dice." In summary, the scientists interviewed gave a variety of opinions on the nature of science. Some said that science is disputative, while others said that it is simply trained and organized common sense. One thing that all the interviewees agreed on was the importance of being critical and questioning assumptions.
  • #1
A pole of scientists gives a surprising variety of opinions:


The one that stood out to me, in the context of PF, was: "Science is disputative."

Alot of people echoed Feynman's answer to this question: "everything's made of atoms."

Which one resonates for you?

Warning: this apparently off hand quetion is a surreptitious rohrschach test. Your answer will reveal masses of information about the festering corruption and pathological contortions latent in your subconscious.
Physics news on
  • #2
Carlo Rovelli

the ideas you have in mind, and that seem so certain to you, might be wrong.
  • #3
I had to go with David Deutsch because I like him. :biggrin:

There are a few concepts in the philosophy of science which I wish everyone understood. But I'm not sure that I can single out one concept, or even a few, in science itself. I wish everyone were familiar with the basic ideas of our most basic theories. So I guess I wish that everyone would read my 1997 book, The Fabric of Reality: Towards a Theory of Everything.
He's shameless. :tongue:
  • #4
Leo Tolstoy said:
I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the highest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.

Knowing and accepting when you are wrong, such as in Einstein's case with Quantum Mechanics.
  • #5
That no matter how close your predictions are, your explanation is still not quite right and suffers from the fundamental flaws inherent in your assumptions.
  • #6
I would have to say what my chem prof. always said. "science doesn't explain why, but how."
  • #7
Reality never conforms to the blueprints. :grumpy:
  • #8
When a scientific explanation is simple, it's most often wrong; and when it is right, it's terribly complex.
  • #9
Gokul43201 said:
When a scientific explanation is simple, it's most often wrong; and when it is right, it's terribly complex.
I have a problem with this as a blanket statement because aren't simplicity and complexity of explanation relative to the mind of the individual pondering the matter?
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  • #10
Evo said:
So I guess I wish everyone would read my 1997 book...
  • #11
Learning how reality can be understood in terms of information and rules is the most amazing thing I've taken from my study of physics and mathematics. How an idea can contain the subtlest of phenomena really makes me wonder why it should be so. The first time I say how a disarmingly simple polar equation could reproduce the shape of a flower, my mind was born anew...
  • #12
Here is one that I liked: Science can validate experience, but not deny it.

I don't know if this is the most important to understand, but for me one of the most profound realizations was that physical theories are merely models which may or may not ever approach the essence of reality; whether or not they do, we can never know. I found this to be damned annoying and quite disappointing really, but I have since learned to love this fact.
  • #13
Did anyone find a lamer one than:

Scientists fall in love - with experiments.

  • #14
This should be made clear in all high-schools:

Science is nothing but trained and organised common sense
  • #15
I only read the first two pages (I at least pretend to have a life :tongue2:). I think the one that would have the greatest impact on people's lives was:
Jesse M Bering said:
Evolutionary biology implies that human life is meaningless, and existential psychology asserts that human life is fundamentally absurd
And the most useless:
Dr Alec D Bangham said:
Amphiphiles are molecules that have an affinity for both aqueous and non-aqueous media.
  • #16
The ones I like the most are variations on a common theme: "How science inspires puzzlement and wonder"; "Uncovering the layers underlying observable phenomena gives a picture of reality that is more profound than reality appears to be"; "Conclusions drawn from scientific experiments are more satisfying, more intellectually stimulating and much more amazing than fiction"; "The fascination that attends the discovery of how things function"

Most important, I'd say, is "The potential benefits of stem-cell research are enormous"

Corniest: "Science = imagination + humility^2"

Most boring (albeit useful): "There are many small tricks to shorten calculations, or to check the results of calculations - such as estimating, rounding, and divisibility tests"
  • #17
The most important scientific concept is to be critical.
  • #18
Sh*t happens.


The Rev
  • #19
theory development:
Feel free to share your theory with the community so we can marvel at how amazing you are for coming up with it in 10 minutes, and remember that your theory is more credible if you have less evidence. You're also sure to gain fame and fortune by posting it online because we all know that the world's top scientists spend time on forums created to help people with homework.

Forget what the so called "experts" tell you. Even though there is no number between A and B, you know for a fact that A and B are not the same. Ignore proofs that rely on grade 6 math; anything this complicated can't be proven with grade 6 math. Also ignore calculus; we all know that calculus is a load of BS anyway. Ignore fractions. Some fractions can't properly be expressed as decimals, so that leads to roundoff errors, so we can conclude that all fractions are wrong all the time. Despite the fact that you have absolutely no proof to believe A and B are different, you know damn well they are!

lab safety:
When working in a lab, the safest area to work is the point farthest from the door. If you're far from the door, you can take a bigger run at the door and knock down more scientists as you race for who gets out of the lab first. As soon as you get out of the lab, turn off the lights and close the door behind you. You don't want electricity flowing through the lines as the fire melts the wires; that could make an electrical fire. You definitely don't want the fire to suck more air from the rest of the building, so be sure to lock that door behind you. Banging on the other side of the door is caused by pressure changes as the fire ignites various chemicals in the lab.

media and government:
you can learn things by watching TV. Dioxin truly is the worst poison ever; it's so horrible that it takes a very large amount of it to make somebody ugly but not actually kill them. We should stop burning dead trees because CO2 is bad, but we should also ignore the fact that the same amount of CO2 is generated when the dead tree is eaten by bacteria. Remember that the CO2 from your car is causing the greenhouse effect; we should probably just assume the large amount of water in the atmosphere has absolutely nothing to do with it.

general population:
You can learn some pretty amazing scientific facts by listening to uneducated people around you. My barber said "they" are working on a new binary system; that's interesting because I was actually stupid enough to believe that there was only one binary and there could never be another. My friend's mom said I should not swallow gum because it will stay in my stomach for 7 years; that seems fairly reasonable. A girl at school said trans-fats are called that because they transform into other fats; I should have known that!

dealing with police:
Now that you're a scientist and people love you, you can get away with a few more things. When a police officer asks if you have any narcotics on you, you can confidently say "no, sir" as you play with the little bag of crystal meth in your pocket. You didn't really lie because meth is the opposite of a narcotic (narcotics make you sleepy).

filing your taxes:
Chemistry is all around you, and now that you're a chemist, you can claim that they're part of your job. All of that Contac, rubbing alcohol, HCl, acetone, iodine, peroxide, sodium hydroxide, lithium batteries, and everything else you use to make meth are now tax writeoffs since chemistry is your business.

  • #20
The most Important Scientific Concept To Understand could have come from Richard Muller whose favourite quote is "The trouble with most folks isn't so much their ignorance. It's know'n so many things that ain't so."

But his priceless is:

I would love to believe that the results of Xxxx et al. are correct, and that the last few years have been the warmest in a millennium.

Love to believe? My own words make me shudder. They trigger my scientist's instinct for caution. When a conclusion is attractive, I am tempted to lower my standards, to do shoddy work. But that is not the way to truth. When the conclusions are attractive, we must be extra cautious.

There is your most important scientific concept to understand, the subjective human factor.
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1. What is the most important scientific concept to understand?

The most important scientific concept to understand is the scientific method. This is a systematic approach to discovering knowledge and understanding the world around us. It involves making observations, forming hypotheses, conducting experiments, and analyzing data to draw conclusions.

2. How does the scientific method work?

The scientific method starts with making observations about a phenomenon or problem. From there, a hypothesis is formed. This is a tentative explanation for the observations. Next, experiments are designed and conducted to test the hypothesis. The data collected from the experiments is then analyzed to determine if the hypothesis is supported or not. If the hypothesis is supported, it can then be further tested and refined. If it is not supported, a new hypothesis must be formed and the process starts again.

3. Why is the scientific method important?

The scientific method is important because it allows scientists to approach problems and questions in a systematic and objective way. It ensures that experiments are conducted in a controlled manner and that results are reliable and reproducible. This helps to build a body of knowledge that can be trusted and used to make informed decisions and advancements in various fields.

4. Are there any limitations to the scientific method?

While the scientific method is a powerful tool, it does have its limitations. One limitation is that it relies on human observation and interpretation, which can be biased. Additionally, some phenomena may be difficult or impossible to study using the scientific method, such as historical events or complex human behaviors. It is also important to note that science is always evolving and what is considered a "fact" today may be disproven in the future.

5. How can the scientific method be applied in everyday life?

The scientific method can be applied in everyday life in many ways. For example, it can be used to test the effectiveness of a new skincare product or to determine the best way to budget and save money. It can also be used to evaluate information and make informed decisions, such as when researching a new diet or exercise routine. By using the scientific method, we can approach problems and questions in a logical and evidence-based manner, leading to more reliable and informed outcomes.

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