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The Trees, the Forest, and Scientific Consensus

17 Jun 2014, 20:21 UTC
The Trees, the Forest, and Scientific Consensus
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

I recently saw this comic from Twisted Doodles, which I think poses quite a conundrum for our usual simple picture of how science is studied and brought forth into the public:
From Twisted Doodles. Used in this post with permission.
If you are a non-scientist reading this blog, your idea of what science is for, and what it’s good for, is probably something like the left column – and in fact, I hope it is! But as someone who works day-to-day on understanding LHC data, I have a lot of sympathy with the right column. So how can they be reconciled?
Science takes hard work from a lot of people, and it’s an open process. Its ultimate goal is to produce a big picture understanding of a wide range of phenomena, which is what you’re reading about when you think all the good thoughts in the left-hand column. But that big picture is made of lots of individual pieces of work. For example, my colleagues and I worked for months and months on searching for the Higgs boson decaying to bottom quarks. We saw more bottom quarks than you would expect if the Higgs boson weren’t there, but not enough ...

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