Watery Science

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There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about water. Actually, I think the story said more about science and its methods than about water, but that’s just my opinion.

It seems that, for the last hundred years or so, scientists have been convinced that the molecular structure of water took the form of a mass of tetrahedrons, formed when each water molecule connects with four other molecules. Scientists have never known this for certain but the idea sounded good, so no one ever really questioned it. Until, that is, scientists at Stanford ran a pot of water through a machine called the Synchrotron. The results were amazing; they found that water is not structured as a bunch of tetrahedrons, but rather appears to be a mass of rings and chains formed when the molecules strongly connect to only two others. Who woulda thunk it?

There is an interesting quote from the story.

As often happens when the conventional wisdom starts to collapse, on closer inspection there wasn't much holding it up in the first place. The notion that water molecules form pyramids actually had little empirical support, Dr. Nilsson says: Experimental findings have been so sparse that theoretical work has dominated the field," and the theory is so inexact "that you can get almost any result you want just by tweaking" a few numbers.

“Experimental findings have been so sparse that theoretical work has dominated the field . . .” It seems scientists didn’t really do much in the way of experimentation to determine if their theory of the structure of water was true or not. And in the absence of such proof, they made up a story and stuck to it. If a story sounds good, just tweak the numbers to make them fit. Hell, no reason to get confused by the facts.

Makes you wonder what else that we take as scientific “gospel truth” is nothing more than a good story, doesn’t it? There are a great many Christians today, the Jesuit Vatican astronomer among them, who say that Intelligent Design should not be taught in schools because it is “not science.” Well, seems to me, neither is science.

1 Comments

Makes you wonder what else that we take as scientific “gospel truth� is nothing more than a good story, doesn’t it?

Science shares this trait with biblical teachings. Is the bible nothing more than a good story? Everything depends on your point of view, but I still give evolution two opposable thumbs up.

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on March 11, 2006 7:33 AM.

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