Friday, January 17, 2014

ResearchMethods: The Night Sky, Critical Thinking & Science - Part 1 - Myth Busters (U1-P1) [VID] Sp14

The Milkyway from EagleHawk neck
Photo by Luke Zeme
When I was little I wanted to be an astronomer.  My family lived out in the country, so the sky was clear and beautiful, filled with stars.  I was fascinated, full of questions.

As a grew up and got into college and grad school, my research interests changed, but I still have a fondness for the night sky and astronomers.

Carl Sagan is an astronomer-hero of mine. More recently Neil deGrasse Tyson fills Sagan's shoes. What these astronomers have to say goes beyond the stars. As scientists, what they teach is a way of thinking.  They teach critical thinking.

The Thinker's Way by John Chaffee is a good place to start a journey into critical thinking.  Some of what follows is inspired by this book.

Try this little exercise:
  1. Think of a topic that you know something about.
  2. Write down five things that you know about that topic.
  3. Don't write down definitions.  Write down claims.  Two options: (1) Write that one thing has an effect on another or (2) one group is different from another.  For example, video games cause violence in players or Americans are more individualistic than Chinese.

Now, questions to ponder:

What does it mean to say “I know something”?
What can we know?  How well?
How do we know it?

How would you go about testing these claims?

One of my favorite television programs is Mythbusters.  The key reason that I like the program is because it uses critical thinking and tests claims.  Check out the video below.

Busting Myths: Asking Questions, Finding Answers
Watch from 0:00 to 10:10.
(Note: If the YouTube clip is no longer available, then the season 8 episode 6 can be found online on AmazonNetflix, etc., if you are interested.)

What claims are the Mythbusters testing?   How?
What issues pop up?

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