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Archive for April 14th, 2009

Theory

This Phone is Tapped.

This Phone is Tapped.

I always found it hard to find a good example of how a scientific theory differs from the colloquial usage of the word. Professor Plaxco (my astrobiology professor) had a good way of demonstrating the difference.

We have a theory of Angola. Not many people of been to Angola (or if they have pick another small country) so no one can directly confirm the theory. However the theory makes certain predictions we can check. One is that there is a United Nations representative from Angola, we could look up their number and call the representative from Angola. Even though we have never been there we can confirm several phenomena associated with the theory of Angola.

The same is true with many scientific theories. We have Big Bang theory, it predicts several independent aspects of the universe and they are right. It predicts a microwave background radiation, variations in that background caused by phonons in the early universe, the primordial ratios of hydrogen, deuterium, helium and other elements and the expansion of the universe. Even though we cannot see the actually big bang (not yet there is some neat neutrino research being done that may let us see farther back beyond the microwave background) we can clearly see what it predicts should happen, just like the theory of Angola.

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