Science is a process of learning, exploration, and discovery, and sometimes science tells us that what we thought was right is wrong. Some researchers themselves say, ”If you say, Science Is Right You’re Wrong”.
To err is human, but to err as a scientist is not good at all because people depend on science to make sure they are right and if science is itself wrong what can people trust. But the truth is science is never free from error because, in the end, scientists are also human.
In fact, science learning should include details of the failures which will show the realistic process of getting to an answer.
Mistakes are common in science because progress can not be done without making mistakes. An experiment with errors may inspire further experiments to correct those errors and also identify previous unsuspected truths.
Scientific explanations which were erroneous
1. Earth at the center of the universe
Aristotle can be blamed for this one. He was not the only one to say that the Earth is at the center of the universe, but he was the most emphatic one.
But in 1543, Copernicus criticized Aristotle’s theory and made a strong case for Aristotle being mistaken. And then in 1610 Galileo’s observation that Venus went through a full set of phases sealed the case for a sun-centered solar system.
2. A new form of water
A new form of water was produced by Soviet scientists in the 1960s. The ordinary water was flushed through narrow tubes, boiled at higher temperatures than normal, and froze at a lower temperature than normal. And the scientists claimed that they had found a way to produce polywater. But when experiments were done on that water it showed that the polywater properties came due to the presence of impurities in ordinary water which made the water-dense and thicker.
3. Existence of a habitable planet
In 1991, astronomers claimed the existence of a planet around a star other than the sun. The star was a spinning neutron star called ‘pulsar’. But very soon the astronomers realized they had mistaken the pulsar’s position in the sky such that the signal received was not from a different planet but was due to the Earth’s motion around the sun.
4. Neutrinos, the fastest thing in the universe
In 2011, scientists claimed that neutrinos which are small flyweight subatomic particles are faster than anything in this universe. Scientists found that neutrinos reached a detector in Italy from a CERN atom in just 60 nanoseconds, faster than the beam of light. But in 2012, the researchers realized that the clock of the experiment was out of sync due to a loose electrical cable causing the error.
There are many different explanations that were found erroneous which proves that sometimes scientific explanations can also be proved wrong as there is no fixed answer to anything in this world.
In fact, learning about failure and mistakes makes science more approachable. Science is not just making discoveries one after the other with perfection and no failures but rather the history of science is full of mistakes, errors, and failures.
The secret of Science: Make mistakes
Once Stuart Firestein said, “Failure is the most important ingredient in science”. He also said that “When an experiment fails or doesn’t work out the way you expected, it tells you there is something you didn’t know”. The best thing for a scientist is a new or a better question.
Making mistakes is very common but learning from those mistakes is very rare. Firestein also said that “Failure is where the action is. It propels science forward”. It simply means if you make a mistake or fail in something it means you at least tried. And science depends on these things only. Scientists research on something and they make a mistake in their calculations or research, it will help them to deepen their research and find the error in the calculations or experiment.
When someone fails, they question their thoughts, opinions, and ideas which is not a very good approach. Whether it is science or it is daily life, no one should get discouraged by failures and mistakes. The one and only secret of science are making mistakes because without making errors and mistakes, one can not learn and can not progress. The saying, “Making mistakes is good, but only if you learn from them” proves this.