Ask the scientists

whitedragon101

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Sep 11, 2008
1,240
261
I am putting together an educational information pack to promote the publics understanding of science and what is and is not supported by evidence.

I would be most grateful if everyone reading this thread to answer a simple question:

If all the worlds scientists were stood on a theatre stage and you could ask them a question with all the worlds people listening in the audience. What would you ask them?

This means you may ask a question you wish to know the answer to, or a question you wish the world to know the answer to, or both. This would be a great help and don't worry if someone has already put down your question, a repeated question will let me know its important.


To get you started here are some example questions (if you were going to enter one of these please just copy and paste it into your post or if you have the time write out your own fuller version) :

Is fluoridation of water bad for your health?

Have we proved the existence of black holes?

Is the theory of evolution supported by evidence?

Was the MMR vaccine safe?

Does lifting weights for 10 rep max build big muscle?

Does vitamin C cure the common cold?
 

shawnathan

macrumors member
Mar 31, 2008
61
0
Is the theory of evolution supported by evidence*?


*By evidence, I mean TRUE evidence, resulting from the use of the scientific method:

1. Ask a Question
2. Do Background Research
3. Construct a Hypothesis
4. Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
5. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
6. Communicate Your Results
 

eawmp1

macrumors 601
Feb 19, 2008
4,130
5
FL
Why, despite a preponderance of evidence, and sometimes outright proof to the contrary, do people cling stubbornly to false beliefs?
 

lewis82

macrumors 68000
Why, despite a preponderance of evidence, and sometimes outright proof to the contrary, do people cling stubbornly to false beliefs?
That is more of either a psychologist or a philosopher's job. ;)



I would ask them if it is possible for developped countries to get rid of their dependency on oil, and how they should proceed to do so.
 

Mousse

macrumors 68020
Apr 7, 2008
2,055
2,723
Flea Bottom, King's Landing
"Why are you building bombs?"

I got the inspiration for the question from Flowers for Algernon. "...he's just an ordinary man trying to do a great man's work, while the great men are all busy making bombs.” It was Charlie's opinion of Doc Strauss and Nemur. One of them, I can't remember which.
 

Huntn

macrumors demi-god
May 5, 2008
17,293
17,113
The Misty Mountains
My impression is that a great number of people question science based on their prejudices, especially religious prejudices. After all how can the scientific method ever hope to compete with the word of GOD. ;)
 

whitedragon101

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Sep 11, 2008
1,240
261
You're heading towards PRSI... I don't think it was the purpose of this thread.
Yes thanks Lewis82. My purpose here is not to get debate going about issue X or Y but just to get the questions.

If people have questions on contentious subjects, thats great, put the question down.

"a question you wish to know the answer to, or a question you wish the world to know the answer to, or both. "
 

snberk103

macrumors 603
Oct 22, 2007
5,484
87
An Island in the Salish Sea
Go to CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks page [Link] and go to the past episodes pages. At least once a year, and maybe more, they have something called the "Questions Show". Where they..... ask a bunch of scientists questions from CBC's audience.

Those questions are way more interesting than any of the examples in the OP.... Sorry. No disrespect intended.

For example:
When swallows fly at great speed into a small hole in a nesting box, how do they manage to stop within the next five inches? (before hitting the back wall of the nesting box)

Or, is our moon the only moon in the Solar System that always presents the same face towards the planet it orbits?


The last Questions Show was in December of 2011.

There are lots more.

Have fun.

----------

More questions from CBC's Quirks and Quarks Question Shows.... These from the Concordia University Road Show.....

If the speed of light is constant and the Big Bang happened 13.7 billion years ago, how is it that we can see 13.7 billion light years on either side of the universe?

We all agree on what red looks like, or green, or blue; but I still don't know if what I see is the same colour that someone else sees. How do we know objectively that what we each see is the same?

Does unripe fruit have as many vitamins and nutrients as ripe fruit?

Are viruses as old as life? Or since they need life to replicate, did viruses evolve from a living cell at some point?
 

whitedragon101

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Sep 11, 2008
1,240
261
Those questions are way more interesting than any of the examples in the OP.... Sorry. No disrespect intended.
Not a problem the questions were just there to get people started. The main thrust of the idea is to explode myths and to make clear questions which tend to have many unqualified people giving answers. Hence :

Does vitamin C cure the common cold?

Was the MMR vaccine safe?
 

snberk103

macrumors 603
Oct 22, 2007
5,484
87
An Island in the Salish Sea
...
Does vitamin C cure the common cold?
Qualified 'Yes'. Helps the body fight the cold.... but if the body ain't gonna fight, then Vit C ain't gonna help....
Was the MMR vaccine safe?
Qualified 'Yes'. Turns out the results that got people into a tizzy were less than accurate. Of course one could still have a car accident on the way to doctor's office.... so of course the vaccination is not quite 100% safe. But the odds of getting the diseases the vaccination is protecting you against are much much much higher if you don't get the shot - than any potential side effects (including accidents on way to the office).

Help?
 

whitedragon101

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Sep 11, 2008
1,240
261
Qualified 'Yes'. Helps the body fight the cold.... but if the body ain't gonna fight, then Vit C ain't gonna help....
Qualified 'Yes'. Turns out the results that got people into a tizzy were less than accurate. Of course one could still have a car accident on the way to doctor's office.... so of course the vaccination is not quite 100% safe. But the odds of getting the diseases the vaccination is protecting you against are much much much higher if you don't get the shot - than any potential side effects (including accidents on way to the office).

Help?
Thanks for contributing but just to be clear to anyone posting I am after the questions not the answers :

"a question you wish to know the answer to, or a question you wish the world to know the answer to, or both."
 

mobilehaathi

macrumors G3
Aug 19, 2008
9,347
6,218
The Anthropocene
No, it shouldn't. A scientist's first and foremost job is to science, not to the public which on the whole is too stupid to understand even the easiest 5% of what they do.
That is my whole point. It is the duty of a scientist to do outreach to the public and to help to educate the layperson. The public funds a substantial amount of basic research, and they deserve to be educated about it at a level that is accessible. If we fail to reach out and fail to teach, Science becomes inscrutable and mysterious. It becomes just another shadowy system of money and power and sacred knowledge ruled by elite figures who seem to legitimize their status through that very system. Without education and transparency, the public has no reason to trust Science or its custodians. Without education and transparency, Science ceases to be Science and becomes a matter of faith.
 

snberk103

macrumors 603
Oct 22, 2007
5,484
87
An Island in the Salish Sea
Thanks for contributing but just to be clear to anyone posting I am after the questions not the answers :

"a question you wish to know the answer to, or a question you wish the world to know the answer to, or both."
OK - fair enough....

However - you have to be careful of the questions too. The two questions I offered opinions on are not answerable in a yes/no way... despite the question being worded that way. They each have lots of "depends" and are more policy questions than science questions.

For eg : Is our moon the only moon in the Solar System to show just one face towards it's planet. Once you catalogue all the moons and their orbits you are left with a "yes" or a "no". Perhaps adding "with the exception of..."

But : Is the MMR vaccination safe? Well technically, nothing is 100% "safe" ... so you could just answer "no". Or do you mean "safer" than.... - but you didn't define the "what".... so - safer than doing nothing? Safer than the alternatives?

Same thing for the "curing the common cold" with vitamin C. Well - what do you mean by "cure"? Will the cold go away with Vit C - well, yes. Did the Vit C make it go away... well maybe. Did the Vit C work better than a placebo.... well, maybe not. Maybe placebos cure the common the cold? Well, no - they're placebos... all they can do is make your mind think the cold away... but if Vit C is making your body help the cold go away, then how is that different a placebo?

I know I'm being difficult - but I find this pseudo-science discussion not just boring, but also dangerous. Knowing just a little bit about science gives people the confidence to make really bad decisions based on faulty understandings.... and sloppy use of language.
 

whitedragon101

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Sep 11, 2008
1,240
261
I know I'm being difficult - but I find this pseudo-science discussion not just boring, but also dangerous. Knowing just a little bit about science gives people the confidence to make really bad decisions based on faulty understandings.... and sloppy use of language.
Yes this exactly the point of the information I am putting together. If you have read Ben Goldacre's book Bad Science this follows on in a similar vein but with more of a focus on making clear what is and is not known.

Incidentally if you have not read Bad Science I highly recommend it. From your posts I'm sure you would love it.
 

acidfast7

macrumors 65816
Nov 22, 2008
1,436
5
EU
you need to remember that "science" is hypothesis-driven.

nothing can be "proven"; a hypothesis can only be "unproven."

subsequent revisions are then needed.

until the public understands science as a process, it's quite useless to attempt to communicate scientific information to the public.