Tag: controlled experiment
One of the most popular television shows on the Discovery Channel is Mythbusters. Their crew of special effects experts, engineers, and scientists look at myths and popular science through the eyes of controlled experimentation for the purpose of “confirming” or “busting” rumors and myths. It is not surprising that such a show would be a hit, as the origins of modern experimental science include the reports of the Royal Society of London in their journal “Philosophical Transactions” where amateur and professional scientists from around the world reported on their putting nature to the test. Can spiders run out of a circle made from powdered unicorn horn? That’s where you would go to find the answer! In many ways, the Royal Society, with members like Newton and Boyle and Hooke and others, was the first “science club” and gave us the blueprint for the way modern experimental science is done.
In our BIMS 1300 Introduction to Scientific Research class we are looking at the efforts of the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters crew to see whether their experimental approaches to testing nature in past episodes can be improved upon. Four teams of students will be watching Mythbusters episodes this weekend and presenting cases from the Mythbuster files and then improving upon the science – identifying and accounting for additional variables, improving upon the controls, etc. – for the purpose of demonstrating their knowledge of how science is done. What good is learning about how experiments are set up without actually setting some up? How better than to analyze and improve upon the experiments of others!
So what will it be: the exploding outhouse? the five-second rule? We’ll see which of the hundreds of clips and stories from the Mythbuster archives are chosen for presentations and re-thinking in the lab during the next few weeks.
The final project for the lab this semester in BIMS 1300 Introduction to Scientific Research is development of games that implement all of the concepts we’ve learned this semester. The checklist of specifications is extensive and each must be defended by the inventors:
- must require players to use the basics of the scientific method,
- must require qualitative and quantitative observations and analysis,
- must address concepts of accuracy and precision,
- must include elements of “cause and effect”,
- must require players to use inductive and deductive reasoning,
- must include elements of observation without intervention, controlled experimentation, and statistical correlation with intervention (the photo shows a plan one group will use to replicate a double-blind study as players land on particular spaces of their game board).
Three teams are hard at work, with two games focused on college life and the third centered on a “you be the doctor” approach to medical diagnosis and treatment. Each team will present their game to the class on November 29th, and each team will play each other’s games during the week and critique them based on a rubric incorporating all specifications (there are more than those listed above).
Who knows – maybe one of these will be on your 2011 Christmas list!
All along this semester I’ve told my students we were taking a “wax on, wax off” approach to learning how scientists work (if that flew over your head, watch Karate Kid and you’ll see what I’m talking about). Even in their final lab project they are seeing how skills used by scientists are applicable to approaching problems they encounter in every day life. Better critical thinkers developed in a fun and creative environment should prepare these students well for their advanced science courses.