July 07, 2001

How to fill a beaker

With an emphasis on safety, the department teaches that acid poured into water will cause the harmless liquid to splash out, while the reverse operation could displace the more dangerous liquid. Kids seeking high marks, therefore, must follow the former procedure when handling their beakers. Mr Simmons professed this advice to his class with a dignified sense of wisdom. He was undoubtedly right and science was undoubtedly incorrigible once again. He navigated a curious method of divulging the knowledge; one often regarded as socratic: he proposed that his class may know the answer and simply asked them which of the two obvious alternatives the class preferred. And why. Perhaps the class got it, perhaps not. Whether it was a student or the teacher who finally released the reason was less consequential than the unanimity with which it was received. A clear, solid lesson brought to us by science. The essence of science itself in fact. Not at all. The lesson, which you should practice if you are actually mixing acid and water, ignores completely the scientific method. Imagine how science would have arrived at the same conclusion: hypothesis: water poured into acid is better than acid poured into water experiment: student will lift beaker of water and inverse it until said liquid falls into beaker of acid below; will repeat the reverse procedure observations: student splashed with acid, runs to eyewash, breaks beaker; reverse procedure, student pessimistic but unhurt perform experiment repeatedly conclusion: actually, acid poured into water better than water poured into acid hypothesis, theory, law, etc... Clearly, the result comes about from common sense, or "wisdom" much more naturally than from the scientific method. Yet science claims it for its own with one might say arrogance. But we won't go so far as that. We all know what this is another case of. It's--

high-tech bull-smoke

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