7
$\begingroup$

Let me set the scene: A team of scientists in their lab one day is told that some miners have discovered some strange new substance. Its properties are extremely peculiar, unlike anything ever before seen. Most of those properties are fantastical and inexplicable (think 'Pure', judgmental energy that seems to only provide when you beg it to enough). How would they react, or present it to the scientific community?

PS: Is this science based? I don't particularly think so, but I don't know what to tag it.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ As inexplicable as anything is, since it is predictable, I would assume they would present the properties that they can gleam from the peculiar element exactly the same as anything else $\endgroup$ – grimmsdottir May 18 '15 at 3:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It is clearly science-based. You ask about how scientists would deal with surprising events ... $\endgroup$ – o.m. May 18 '15 at 19:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What definition of predictable are you using? Science has a very particular one revolving around statistics. Note that traditional western science is also only really interested in properties which are independent of the observer ("when you beg it enough" sounds like it is rather dependent on the observer for effects) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon May 18 '15 at 22:02
17
$\begingroup$

Typical scientific process when discovering something that doesn't agreed with accepted models of nature:

  1. Make sure it's not a fluke.
  2. Really make sure it's not a fluke.
  3. Perform quantitative tests.
  4. Get others to check your results (credit to @Burki for the peer-review suggestion).
  5. Form a succinct explanation of what's going on.

Testing: When you beg of it enough is a qualitative answer. It doesn't provide any measured figure about any of its properties. Once scientists are sure this is something new, they'll will try to gauge its properties.

  • Mapping exactly how hard a person has to beg, to gain a certain result.
  • Does this effect scale with the number of people begging (begging for the same thing, and for different things).

Before they talk to their own community, or the public, they'll want to make sure they have their proverbial ducks in a line. Making fantastic claims like this would end your career if it was found to be something fake or easily explainable.

Read this article. It's about a recent incident in the physics community where someone detected particles travelling faster than the speed of light. It's rather long, but it gives a great insight into how cautious scientists are. They made their discovery, knew exactly it was either revolutionary or flawed - and spent months doing further research in secret to disprove their own discovery.

In the end it was just flawed data.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Yes, quantifying begging is a hard task in and of itself. $\endgroup$ – user6511 May 18 '15 at 3:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would like to suggest that you add peer reviewing their results to your list, since it's a necessary part of the scientific method. Other than that i fully agree with your answer. $\endgroup$ – Burki May 18 '15 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ Not to mention that they would try to pinpoint what exactly it means to "beg". Can we make a machine to do the begging for us? In a reducible universe, it must be possible - so there must be a level in the map where the human "begging" overlaps with something a bit more fundamental and understandable. The window for OP's story is between the discovery of the basic behaviours etc. and the final understanding of the lower levels in the map - when we'll finally find out that it's not really begging per se, but say, a specific EM frequency that's associated with human brains begging. $\endgroup$ – Luaan May 18 '15 at 7:34
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the scientists will usually cling to their research in secret to publish complete, revolutionary effect with a proof. But they can release the research early, unproven, but qualifying it as such. "It's quite possible this is just an error we've made somewhere, but given our resources, we're unable to pinpoint it by ourselves, so we reach out to the scientific community..." - of course if there was an error, that's a hit to the reputation, though not devastating. And if it's real, the one who proves it was real takes quite a bit of the credit normally due to the discoverer. $\endgroup$ – SF. May 18 '15 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ Are we are talking about some sort of magical rock here? $\endgroup$ – superluminary May 18 '15 at 9:37
2
$\begingroup$

Questions would be asked

Scientists are intelligent human beings, not stimulus response machines. As such there would be intelligent discussion about the thing. Questions would be asked, such as:

  1. How can the stone know that it is being beseeched.
  2. Is the stone aware of us?
  3. Is the stone intelligent?
  4. Is this some sort of strange quantum thing?
  5. Is the stone alien?
  6. Is it dangerous? Can it hurt us?
  7. Can we ask it for gold, money, cure for cancer, etc?
  8. What are the limits of it's power?
  9. Should we tell anyone about this?
  10. Should we use this power?
  11. Are we gods now?

Not part of any known pattern

Science proceeds by attempting to fit information into known patterns, extending the body of knowledge.

It would be immediately obvious that this was something so far outside the norm that is should be treated with great care. There would not be an obvious way to investigate it because it doesn't form a part of any known pattern.

Investigation

The scientists would want to come up with ways to approach the problem.

I would anticipate attempts to duplicate the wish granting behaviour. I would also anticipate an attempt to remove a small chip from the stone for analysis.

Publicity

Successful experiments would be filmed. I would expect these films to be put on youtube and go viral very quickly. I would expect great interest from all corners of the scientific community.

If the rock can indeed grant wishes I would expect great interest from the Pentagon / relevant governing authorities and accompanying security.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If I were investigating it, I'd start with simpler questions, including "what's James Randi's telephone number?" $\endgroup$ – Beta May 18 '15 at 18:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.