Science Poetry

Process Poem

“Start by observing, then
Ask informed question and
State a hypothesis;
Then test away,
Findings might verify
(Or ‘back to drawing board’
Also might say…).”

I’ll return here in the autumn semester to the routine of weekly posts in which I provide additional context (“translations”) for the poems I’ve posted on Twitter in previous months. The 31 August 2020 poem summarized the scientific method in double dactylic rhythm.   

“Start by observing, then /
Ask informed question and /
State a hypothesis; /
Then test away, /

The specific details of the scientific method are listed in different ways by different sources, but major commonalities persist.  The method is driven by observations, which lead to posing a question with a tentative explanatory answer called a hypothesis.  That hypothesis can predict findings; those predictions can be tested via experiments.  (The presence of “experimentally” on a list of double-dactyl-friendly, six-syllable words prompted this particular poetic endeavor.)  

“Findings might verify /
(Or ‘back to drawing board’ /
Also might say…).”

The final few lines emphasize another aspect of the scientific method: its iterative nature.  Experiments can provide evidence (data, results, conclusions) in support of a hypothesis’s predictions (“findings might verify”), or they can provide evidence that does not support those predictions. In the latter case, a scientist would refine the hypothesis, design a new experiment, and try again: “back to [the] drawing board.”  

As a sidenote, another vocabulary term often introduced alongside the scientific method is “theory.”  A scientific theory is a explanation that has withstood many instances of rigorous testing from the scientific community; the scientific definition of “theory” is different than the everyday definition.  (One valuable metaphor I’ve heard used is that of a map: a theory connects complex information in our understanding of a particular subject into an organized format. The merit of the theory can be evaluated on the basis of the “geographical information” it provides.)

The resources linked herein provide much more detailed and informative discussions of the nature and history of the scientific method!  However, this does seem a fitting topic for the first poem “translation” of this new semester.