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Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting by Oivind Andersson

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2.1 Characteristics of the Scientific Approach

Imagine that you are driving a rental car in a foreign country. You have never driven the model of car before and, despite the car being brand new, you find that it does not seem to work properly. Sometimes when you turn the ignition key the engine just will not start. Although you are not a specialist you do have a basic understanding of how an engine works and, starting from there, you begin to investigate the problem.

Based on your limited knowledge of engines you make a list of potential causes of the problem. Comparing the symptoms you would expect from these causes with your experience of the problem, you find yourself forced to discard one point after another on the list until there are no potential causes left. The next time the engine fails to start you are faced with the fact that you are completely clueless about what to do. In an act of desperation you decide to walk around the car before turning the ignition key again and, to your immense surprise, the engine now starts without a problem. Encouraged, you begin to experiment with this new method and find that walking in a clockwise direction around the car does not work. After a walk in a counter-clockwise direction, however, the engine always starts perfectly. So, in the course of your systematic investigation of the problem you have made a discovery, and a highly unexpected discovery at that!

Later, when returning the car to the rental car office, you complain about the ...

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