/ Friday, June 27, 2008 _Is Science Really Dead, or Just Forgotten?

This month Wired magazine declared “The End of Science”. No, they didn’t mean that we have finally managed to gather all the information ever in existence and can now safely sit on the couch and watch reruns of Twilight Zone without feeling guilty that we aren’t out there solving all of the world’s mysteries. What their many articles sought to explain was that the end of the scientific method as we know it. We used to have to hypothesize, create models to recreate real world scenarios that we ourselves could not experience (outer space, tiny molecules), and then base our theories as accurately as we could on these models. In today’s world, though, the computer has allowed us to gather mass amounts of information, have worldwide access to this information, and crunch this huge amount of data in a matter of seconds. Trial and error has been erased and replaced with mathematical equations that can do everything from finding new planets to finding new ways to market data to us through websites. While all these advancements in science are certainly beneficial, we found these articles to be slightly disconcerting. With a cover shot of a telescope, globe, card catalogs, and magnifying glass, this issue seemed to single handedly erase all notions of what we here at Hlaska are trying to revive.

Part of the age-old novelty of science was precisely the adventure and uncertainty of it all. The splitting of the atom or the first trip into outer space weren’t accomplished by a computer crunching numbers but rather a team of scientists and hundreds of years of knowledge that lead to these events. The Empire State building was designed by architects on drafting paper, not modeled in a 3D program. It seems as though the romance and mystery of science has been traded in for computer programs and spread sheets. Not that new or more efficient means of acquiring knowledge is wrong but it seems to no longer be a process whereby we discover (often by accident) the meaning to phenomena or the cure to diseases. Penicillin, the small pox vaccine, and plastic were all accidental scientific discoveries. If we rely solely on computers for analyzing data, the mistakes that often lead to discoveries may be lost on the computer's excellent ability to make few errors.

While we fully support this information age that links us across the globe in less than a second, we want to keep in touch with science’s humble past, its glory days of “quaint” items such as telescopes and Petri dishes. Thanks for the help, computers, but there’s a reason why science labs and archeology dig sites still exist, there can never a replacement for good old-fashioned discovery.


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