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18. The UNscientific method. Part 1.

(Feb 3, 2017) I temporarily removed this early post because it seemed to be attracting spambots. Now re-posting. Enjoy! I am often asked the question “Is there a scientific method?” If the question means “Is there just one method that all scientists accept and use by consensus?” then the answer is clearly NO. As this series has shown, and will continue to ...

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120. Joseph Priestley’s imaginative political justification for the pursuit of pure science.

A great deal of nonsense is currently being spouted by people who believe that the days of unfettered “fundamental,” “pure,” “blue-sky” research are over – or, at least, that they ought to be, and that scientists should come out into the “real world,” whatever that may be. It would be interesting to see the same arguments being applied to ...

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Australian politicians need to understand how science can REALLY be made profitable

The Australian Government is seriously considering radical changes to research funding where the major criterion would be the potential applications of a project, rather than its scientific value and rigour. This crazy idea, so intuitively appealing to politicians, has long been shown to be without foundation (e.g. Sir John Cadogan's report at http://learnedsociety...

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Will Turnbull reverse the cuts?

Nov 4, 2015  Here is the text of an open letter (submitted to Sydney Morning Herald but unpublished) to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, drafted by me on behalf of the Royal Society of New South Wales. In a recent speech, Turnbull promised to “invest in science and put it right at the centre of our national agenda”. We ask just what this means in ...

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105. What does it feel like to be a scientist?

Some late night reflections on what it feels like to be a scientist, broadcast on ABC Radio National in Australia on September 13th, and now available as a podcast at http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/what-does-it-feel-like-to-be-a-scientist/6765454. Here's the transcript: What does it feel like to be a scientist? I want to talk with ...

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98. Necessary Mysteries

The remarkable experimental discovery that (in the quantum world at least) “future events can decide what happened in the past” (http://www.digitaljournal.com/science/experiment-shows-future-events-decide-what-happens-in-the-past/article/434829) has stimulated me to republish here my short essay on “Necessary Mysteries,” which first appeared in my book ...

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The true place of science in gastronomy

My contribution to a panel discussion at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, Sunday July 5th, 2015. We don’t need to understand science to enjoy our food, but quite often we need science to provide us with food that we can enjoy, and understanding the science can add to that enjoyment. When it comes to enjoying it in the gastronomic sense, a good ...

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Linking science solely to practical outcomes misses the point

My latest "Ockham's Razor" talk on Australian ABC radio contains a very important message about how science works and how it needs to be supported. I argue that Australia (and the world) need two types of science in order to flourish. The first must be concerned with using the knowledge scientists and engineers already possess to provide solutions to problems and ...

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85. Necessary mysteries

The world is full of mysteries. Until the last few hundred years, these were thought to be the prerogative of religion and philosophy. But with the advent of science, a new category has come into being -  "necessary" mysteries. Many of the odd, sometimes counter-intuitive. beliefs that scientists hold are necessary mysteries – bizarre, “anti-common sense” ...

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76. Why we should teach students how scientists think.

When I started this series of Mini Stories, I did so out of pique. Not one, but two agents had told me that people would not be interested in a book about how scientists think. I thought that they would be – or, at least, that they ought to be, and would be if someone held out a hand and helped them over the hump of self-doubt, and the feeling that science is ...

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