Monday, July 15, 2013

Science is a Hologram

A hologram is a really cool thing where you can produce a three dimensional image. It's not just a two-dimensional representation of a 3D image, the image actually is 3D. When you move around it, you get the parallax effect of different elements passing in front of and behind it.

Another aspect of a hologram, and the one more important to my analogy is that each piece of the holographic image actually contains the entire image. Look at just a small part of the hologram and you'll see the same picture, but at worse resolution (like zooming in on a picture and seeing more pixels). If you include more elements of the hologram, the picture resolution improves.

Every piece of scientific research improves the whole picture. It may be hard to see it, but a lepidopterist publishing a paper on the genitalia of the female Large Chequered Skipper is actually advancing the cause of all science. The paper improves knowledge of the Large Chequered Skipper biology, of the biology of all hesperiidae, of all lepidoptera, of all insects, of all animals, of all life; it improves the knowledge of the evolution of genitalia, of butterflies, of insects, of animals; it improves the knowledge of chemistry and physics; it improves the study of biology, of science. At all levels, in increasingly small ways, every bit of study improves our knowledge and understanding of increasingly broad methods.

In the other direction, each act of science contains the whole of science. The scientific method is iterations of1:

  1. Define a question
  2. Gather information and resources (observe)
  3. Form an explanatory hypothesis
  4. Test the hypothesis by performing an experiment and collecting data in a reproducible manner
  5. Analyze the data
  6. Interpret the data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
  7. Publish results
  8. Retest (frequently done by other scientists)

And every time someone goes out and sciences, they're performing part of that process. Each bit of science contains in itself the behavior of the whole institution, the epistemology of the verfication of observable knowledge and the construction of theories therefrom. Every piece contains the whole, and every piece is part of the whole. Science is a hologram.

1 - Stolen, without shame, from wikipedia.

Post a Comment