[time-nuts] science projects

Jim Lux jimlux at earthlink.net
Fri Feb 10 00:09:20 UTC 2012

On 2/9/12 8:23 AM, Chris Albertson wrote:
> I think it's odd that all these "science" projects are NOT doing any
> science.   They sound like engineering to me.
> So you build a neat mouse trap?  That is not science unless you have a
> theory about mouse behavior and your trap is intended to test the
> theory.    Around here we do have these projects but we call them
> "engineering" and they are judged by engineers.

It's the "international science and engineering fair", so both kinds 
show up.

The line between applied science and engineering is pretty fuzzy.

Is a verification of theoretical coupling between pendulums a science 
question or engineering question?  What about developing a better model 
to remove tidal effects on the pendulum? A lot of modern science is 
coming up with ever more precise and descriptive models, particularly if 
the model is not purely phenomenological, but is based on the underlying 

But even for engineering, there has to be significant "scientific 
method" applied.  Research in the field to understand the state of the 
art.  Formulation of a design/plan, and the expected performance of the 
device (aka "the hypothesis"), quantitative tests, etc.

Distinguish between "craftsmanship" and "engineering".. Even in the 
engineering categories, a mouse trap wouldn't necessarily do very well 
unless it there was something novel about it AND there were decent 
predictions of performance ahead of time that could be tested by the 
thing that gets built.

Lots of "I built a robot" kinds of projects that don't do well, even if 
well constructed.  "I built a robot that climbs trees using a technique 
nobody has ever used before" would do better.  "I built a robot that 
climbs trees using a method that improves on how monkeys climb trees" 
might do even better, depending.

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