Monday 12 May 2008

What are experiments?

Hello world,

this is the first post of my first blog. I just would like to express how much I love understanding Nature, and the way I reach this understanding. All understanding is based on experiments. Without experiments, we would believe in things which are not true, and we wouldn't be able to predict how the Nature will react to anything.

I really enjoy doing experiments, but I don't do as many as I could, and I want to improve this. An Italian friend who lives in Finland once told me that Finnish people use to say "learn from inside" (understand) or "learn from outside" (learn by heart). I think I have been learning too many times from outside (books, other people, websites...), and now it's time to change that. I don't want to be a tourist of knowledge, but an explorer of knowledge, a creator of knowledge.

Sometimes, I think I have no time, or I convince myself that it is too complicated this or that experiment. But actually, we are surrounded by Nature. We are Nature ourselves, so... it can't be so difficult to make her a question.

So, what can I do to do more experiments, every time, everywhere? I first have to know what is an experiment, and what is not.

To do an experiment we do NOT need:
  • to have great ideas (great ideas are helpful, but not at all needed: we can do the simplest experiments about every day's life, so there is no more excuses such as "I'm too tired to think [about something complicated]" or "I have no imagination"),
  • a lot of time (this is not at all in the definition of experiment, an experiment can be done in a few seconds if we want),
  • a lot of material (an experiment can be done in a laboratory, and some "important" experiments require such conditions that a laboratory might be the only solution, but this is not true for all the experiments, and so it is not a part of its definition. An experimental mind finds beliefs to test everywhere),
  • a lot of knowledge (we can test the simplest thing we know, and doesn't matter if somebody knew that already, so here we have another excuse we will not use anymore: "I have to learn more things about the subject").
But we do need some things:
  • an idea to test (we have to define what are we pursuing, otherwise we will never reach our target, simply because there is no target. It can be a very simple idea, but we have to know which idea is),
  • creativity (if we don't try to do it differently, we always will get the same answer),
  • willing to have fun (it is supposed to be interesting, isn't it?),
  • observation of our environment,
  • objective measurements (when we don't measure what we are studying, we have a deformed version of the world in our mind, and the longer we don't do it, the more deformed it gets),
  • motivation (and this is one of the reasons if am starting this blog, because I know myself, and I know that having something to write about what I am doing boosts my motivation).
The first experiment I will do on this blog is checking something. There exist lots of blogs (on Wikipedia somebody says that something called Technorati is tracking more than 112 million blogs), so I will test this idea:

very few people will leave a comment here.

This is based on the following facts:

  1. I think very few people will find this blog,
  2. even if somebody finds it, the probability that somebody reads the whole post is even smaller,
  3. and even if somebody reads everything, not everybody will leave a comment.
So we have a sort of Drake equation which is multiplying tiny probabilities giving an even smaller probability. Let me know if I am right or wrong.

To measure this in the most objective way I can, and make it a bit more interesting, I will make a prediction. Let's say:

This post will get no more than three different reader's comments within the next seven days

And, if I am wrong, would you tell me what is your idea of what is needed and what is not needed in an experiment?


Arjen Dijksman said...

Hello Eynar. So you were right, because you did this experiment without promoting in any way your blog (?) So, sure very very few people found your blog. I hope this will change.

Eynar Oxartum said...

Yes, in fact I didn't tell anybody at all during the first seven days, which is the time I allowed in my prediction.

After that I didn't promote it too much: I just told some friends, and used it in my email signature. I prefer to let "interesting posting" to be the main "reader hunter" ;)

As usual, making experiments is interesting. The first comment (yours!) arrived exactly eight months later, which means ~34 times longer to get 1/3 of my prediction (that is, one out of three posts). This means I was wrong by a ratio 1/100!