The Scientist in Each of Us
The Scientist
in Each of Us

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The Book

This is a preliminary website to accompany the book The Scientist in Each of Us. The book can be thought of as an elaboration on the following statement from Albert Einstein:

The whole of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.

The book is in search of a publisher. Currently this page is only a placeholder for supplementary information referred to in the book. It is meant only for reviewers as I work on the book.

Here is a brief summary of each chapter:
Chapter 1. Marvelous

      I feel that knowledge, tested and demonstratable knowledge, is a marvelous thing. Gaining knowledge and 'seeing for ourselves' is something we all do in our own way, to our own satisfaction, every day.

      In this chapter I show the close connection between ordinary thinking and what is required for scientific thinking. It's all a matter of degree, of raising the bar, of checking deeper, and taking the time to put together a solid case for what we feel we know. This is something we can all do if we want to.

      Science is the human enterprise that wants to do just that.

      What's great about scientific knowledge? You can do stuff with it. People can feel they "know" things like "everything in the Universe is connected" until they are blue in the face, and it will never lead to the design of a brain imaging machine like the MRI.

Chapter 2. The Method Behind the Progress

      There is so much "Scientific Method" information out there in the world I will hardly address it. But in this chapter I use it. I make an observation, make wild guesses as to the cause of what I'm seeing, then I run some experiments. I show the mistakes. I even show the silly things I come up with.

      This is actual science at work. And you can do this too.

Chapter 3. The First Step

      You can't talk about the scientific method and not mention "skepticism". But there is good use and bad use of the word skepticism.

      In this chapter I make the point that if you can't apply skeptical thinking to your own beliefs, then you've got no business saying you are skeptical of anything else.

      The price of admission into the thinker's club is admission that you make mistakes. Without a method to check if something is true or not, and a willingness to change your belief if the experiment shows that it runs counter to what you think is "real", we'd still be in the dark ages. We'd be simpleminded.
      And dirty and sick to boot.

Chapter 4. Arguing

      I show what a proper argument looks like. Not bickering or shouting or tweeting, but what a properly argued scientific case looks like. They are things of rational beauty.

      Some people are put off by scientists' confidence in their knowledge. But that confidence comes from the scientific method. You can draw out an argument on a piece of paper and show the connections between the facts and reasons and support. A scientific case is something solid that you can actually examine and verify. You can find out where you made mistakes. That's pretty cool thing to be able to do.

Chapter 5. Truth and Fact

      Science searches for "scientific truth". Just what that means is expained in this chapter. Conclusions of scientific cases are always provisional, always dependent on current facts and reasons, and always put in a testable form.

      If tests fail, that 'truth' fails, and we have to be willing to abandon it and go forward with our new best facts and reasons. It's a great way to make progress. It's actually the only way to make progress.

Chapter 6. Complaints About Science

      Frankly, some of the things people say against science are mind boggling. In this chapter I address in frank tones just what I think when I hear those sorts of statements.

Chapter 7. Wonder

      I end with an invitation. Increasing knowledge increases feelings of beauty and wonder of our world and life. Science is every human's birthright. Claim it.

      Get out and do some observing. Close up. Take notes.

      It does not matter if you don't know what you are doing. Curiosity will get you there.

About the remainder of this web page

There are a few major sections to this page, and they are all based on the book.
First, some of the experiments from the book are best shown in videos, or contain too much detail for the book. So I've put them in the sections shown here:

Second, the book discusses references to resources on reasoning. That is given here:
  • Reasoning

    Third, there is only so much room in a book for endnotes. I like endnotes, and I'd like to get carried away. This web page allows me to do that. Those notes are here:
  • Notes On Notes

    Finally, if you would like to leave a comment, you can do so here:
  • Comments

  • The Hypotheses
    Chapter 2 of The Scientist in Each of Us walks through a series of experiments, mistakes and all, based on an observation that when I connected a springy and free-to-move coil of wire to a battery, the wires seemed to bunch together. I tidied up that clumsy sentence into a nice little 'observation of a phenomena' statement:

    Wires attract one another when electricity flows through them.

    After making that observation I chose to forge, for the purposes of the book, all the science we already know about this phenomena. I was free to speculate wildly for an explanation. Each explanation will be a hypothesis. I'm not claiming I thought of everything, but here is my list from the book of possible explanations:
    The "H" stands for "Hypothesis". Read Hmagnetic as "H sub magnetic" or as "the magnetic hypothesis".
    • Hmagnetic: electric current causes magnetism
    • Hliking: the wires suddenly like each other
    • Hexpanding: heating the wires makes air less dense between them and air pressure forces the wires together
    • Htransform: the electric current transforms the copper into loadstone
    • Hgluey: the electricity makes the air between the wires "gluey"
    • Hundetectable: the electricity pushes away some undetectable material between the wires
    • Hattractons: the electricity causes the arrival of "attractons"
    • Hwilling: I willed them to attract with my mind
    • Hjust-what-wires-do: that's just what wires do sometimes all by themselves
    • Hhallucination, seeing something that isn't there
    • Hmistaken, seeing one thing and thinking it's something else

    A demonstration of the wire bunching-together phenomena is shown in the video Wire Attraction.
    The video Compas Deflection hows some support for Hmagnetic.
    The section below in Willing Experiment shows that I can't support the mind power explanation that Hwilling suggests.
    The video Experiment A shows part of the test of Hmagnetic ... magnetism from salt water.

    Wire Attraction
    This is the video mentioned in the book that shows how a little bit of electric current will make wires draw together. It is the basis of all electric generators and virtually every electric motor on the planet!
    You will need to watch the coil closely. It bunches together very slightly when the button is pushed. That's the "attraction" discussed book. If you can, open this in a separate video player so you can enlarge it.

    Compas Deflection
    This is the video mentioned in the book that shows how a compass needle is deflected by electric current in the wires.
    The strength of the magnetic field from the coil is much stronger than the natural magnetic field of Earth, though of course the coil doesn't have the world-wide range of Earth. Watch the compass needle re-orient when the button is pressed. When the power is removed (button released) the needle goes back pointing North. The needle is in a fluid, and that's why it moves so slowly when it returns pointing North.

    Here is some general setup related to the detection of the "attraction" phenomena:

    Willing Experiment
    This is the Willing Experiment for testing the Willing Hypothesis, Hwilling. This is what the basic setup looked like before I placed large cardboard dividers between the participants so that only the Experimenter (participant E) could see any of the others.

    Below are the checklists and instruction sheets given to each participant. Each contains the unique directions for that participant. Click on any to see the full sheet after it was completed:

    And below is a screenshot of the spreadsheet used to examine the data. More analysis is on the way. Anyone adept with statistics could find much more to say about the data (and I will later on), but the important thing here is that I am testing the hypothesis that it is my willpower against the hypothesis that it is the electric current that causes the observed magnetic attraction.

    It is not the correlation between my willpower and the observed attraction that matters, but the difference between that and the correlation between the electric current and observed attraction.
    Because the correlation between the electric current and observed attraction is 1, meaning that every time the button was pushed the wires attracted, and the correlation between my willpower and the observed attraction is nearly zero, meaning that it was only a 50/50 chance that the wire attracted when I willed them to, I must reject the hypothesis that the attraction of the wires has anything to do with mental powers.

    Experiment A
    Here are some details of the apparatus for testing the Magnetic Hypothesis, Hmagnetic. I have a copper wire suspended by two flat balsa-wood strips, and they are being held up only by a strip of tape such that the copper wire is free to swing. Wind could cause it to swing. Bumping the table can cause it to swing. Can a wire with electric current flowing through it cause it to swing?

    Yes, if there is another conductor. The other conductor is brass or aluminum or copper wire, or the salt water in a pipette. That second conductor is stationary, fixed to the table with clay. The free-to-swing copper wire will be pulled towards the stationary conductor.

    Pipette with salt water

    In this video you can see that I have the pipette with salt water stationary and I am looking for attraction to the free-to-swing copper wire. What you can't see is that I am pressing and releasing the button in order to get the wire swinging. The effect was very small, so I used that swinging trick to amplify it. Just like pushing someone on a swing, I timmed my button pushing, synchronizing it to the movement. After about 16 seconds I started pressing the button when the wire began to swing away from the glass, and I managed to slow the swing down in the same way I was able to get it swinging in the first place. If you can, open this in a separate video player so you can enlarge it.

    The first two contraptions I built to test this were so sensitive that the suspended wires would swing if you looked at them cross-eyed. This apparatus works ... magnetism through salt water.

    When I started this there were a handful of books on the topic of cognitive biases and the irrational ways of the human mind. Now you can't even count them. This is a vast literature, and I have not pared it down yet even to a shortlist.
    In the book I talk about how we are all prone to mistakes in thinking. But sometimes you have to feel it to believe it. If you are overconfident in your own beliefs, but you don't even know how you got those beliefs in the first place, it will be difficult to understand why science has to work the way it does. Have a read or watch some videos or take some online tests:

    Particularly interesting videos on cognitive fails currently on YouTube:
    • The "Door" Study
      The Monkey Business Illusion
      by Daniel Simons (more on
    • Colour Changing Card Trick
      by Richard Wiseman (more on

    Books and courses on disk:
    • Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It
      lectures by Professor Steven L. Goldman
      Course 1235 from
    • Philosophy of Science
      lectures by Professor Jeffrey L. Kasser
      Course 4100 from
    • Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction
      by John Brockman
    • You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself
      by David McRaney (more on
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow
      by Daniel Kahneman
    • Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
      by Dan Ariely

    Webpages about cognitive fails and fallacies of reason are abundant. So are books pointing out fallacies of reason. The problem with many of these is that they seem to be about how to spot and label bad reasoning in other people. We must first remember that to the other 7 billion people on the planet we are one of the other people.

    Notes On Notes. These correspond to the chapter endnotes in the book.
    1.1 Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions,page 290. He is not implying that there is an "correction" or a "betterment". Just a refinement.
    5.2 Philosophers ask questions about the true nature of Reality and whether or not we will ever understand it to our satisfaction. We must leave them to it.

    This is a much re-quoted line from Albert Einstein: "The whole of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking," so I looked it up. His book Ideas and Opinions is a collection of earlier published work. Albert was 57 when he wrote the following:

    What is most interesting here is that in this essay he is saying that the people best suited to philosophizing about a science are the scientists that understand the discipline well. This suggests that there would not be a single Philosophy Of Science, but a Philosophy of the Science of Physics, a separate Philosophy of the Science of Psychology, etc. I think that makes a lot of sense.

    2.17they talk mostly about static electricity.
    2.18the "electricity of chocolate".

    I went into the Encyclopedia Britannica expecting to find some connection between electricity and magnetism. The encyclopedia was a reprint of an earlier edition and was not up to date. It was actually about 20 years behind since working batteries had been known for that long. You need batteries for electric current flow unless you are content with sparks and lightning. (One of the articles was about the damage sustained by one researcher, and his subsequent death, by lightning.)

    But in those 160 pages of the articles "Electroscope"(xyz pp) and "Magnetism"(pdq pp) and "Electricity"(pdq pp), I discovered a completely different mind at work. They simply did not have a real clue what they were dealing with. The particles, electrons, were too small and too foreign to their minds. They did have a lot of "theories" though. The article suggests that elecrticity could be one of these:
    • Electricity is a fluid
    • Electricity is two different kinds of fluid
    • Electricity is a material object (like a ball is an object)
    • Electricity is heat
    • Electricity is atmosphere
    • Electricity is a "molecule"
    • Electricity is "dialation"
    • Electricity is light, and vice versa
    • Electricity is an acid
    • Electric action is like gravity
    If you read the book "The Scientist in Each of Us" you will recognize those statments as claims, not theories. None of them explain anything. This is what I mean by not having a real clue. There really was no useful theory and researchers seemed to go looking for data, signs of electricity whereever they could find it. The idea that it's an acid came from the smell and "taste" of an electric jolt. The Encyclopedia Britannica entry for the electricity of chocolate shows just how curious yet undirected they were in their research.

    Ben Franklin seems to have done the best job. He said that the electric fluid seems to repel itself, but has an affinity to other objects. And indeed electrons repel other electrons, and will attract/move into any conductor that will have them.

    3.10 (Stories of Science and Invention, 1959) This little book is still available used, on Amazon:

    If you read the foreword you will see that these radio broadcasts aired during World War II. A terrible time, but for those 4 minutes of Science and Invention talks on the radio it must have felt like a marvelous time to be an inventive person curious about the world.

    6.5 bees can't fly
    "Bees can't fly". What an odd thing to say. No one knows exaclty where this odd little quote started, but we suspect it came from the introduction to Le Vol des Insectes., Antoine Magnan, 1934. I wondered what exactly he did write, so I got a copy.

    But first, here is a video showing what I explain in the book: Bee wings flex

    Here's the book, finally arrived from Italy. Uh oh. It had a rough ride here.

    The paper is heavy, but brittle.

    Here it is, out of its case. It doesn't have a hard cover.

    And ... oh my. This copy has never been read. The pages are still uncut. I will have to slice them ...

    It's actually an awkward work to translate. Written in 1934 in the academic style, it's hard to get the real intent of M. Magnan. I elicited the help of Professor Frederic Canovas at Arizona State University. He says:
    When the author writes,
    « First, influenced by studies on flying, I applied the laws of air resistance to insects, and I came up with Mr Sainte-Laguē to the conclusion that it is impossible for them to fly, »
    he tries to put himself in the shoes of the experimenter in his lab, describing his progress strickly from that point of view (of something still being experimented and not yet understandable according to the laws of physics). He then adds,
    « I then told my students: The fact is, however, that insects do fly and support their own weight all the time,»
    to indicate that there is a discrepancy between what he can demonstrate at this point in his experiments and what seems nonetheless obvious to anybody. In fact in the next paragraph he goes on trying to explain that discrepancy (« discordance » in French).
    I don't know if this helps or even if it makes sense to you. The writing sounds old, and no one (particularly in academia) would write this way today.
    The point of course is "there is a discrepancy between what he can demonstrate at this point in his experiments and what seems nonetheless obvious to anybody." It was never about denying the obvious, but letting the obvious fact indicate that there was much we still have to learn. And that's the path to the next experiment I talk about in the book.

    The wrong way to test if the Earth is flat

    Asking questions and proposing answers is about as normal for a human as it gets. One of our refinement steps is to ask questions that we can get answers to. For example, "Why are leaves green?" is not a scientific question. At least not in 2017. We know that the short answer is that of all the wavelengths of light that human eyes can detect, from red to blue-violet, leaves reflect the green and mostly absorb the rest. So then we ask the next obvious questions. What is "green?" That is, what is it we are doing when we detect and label something as "green"?
    Coming soon in this section I follow that line of inquiry.