This is amazing: Scientists were befuddled by tree ring data not matching the natural cooling that follows a volcanic eruption. It turns out, in really cold years, we may not get tree rings at all. The data doesn't exist!
Seriously, read the whole article (it's written in a way that I was able follow most of it). This is an excellent contemporary example of how science works, and what it looks like while people try to make sense of what we observe.
Reminds me of apparent retrograde motion. Assuming the earth is the center of the universe produces very observable -- albeit incorrect -- models of how things work (check out this video and this one for a bit more). Similarly, assuming trees almost always add wood, the information we have doesn't make sense with the temperature measurements we've collected. Something strange is going on. ...or, perhaps, we've assumed the wrong things!
By stepping back and considering our limited perspective, we gain a better understanding of what's happening. And that is very, very cool. ...especially when it's paired with volcanoes and tree rings! I am so excited by this information; it reminds me yet again of how awesome life-long learning is.
I love science. I think a big part of my admiration was incubated in how I encountered science growing up.1 Science wasn't an abstract, out there, to-be-feared or dreaded topic. Instead, it was accessible, and a way to make sense of the world. Studying science and history also offered a great way to talk about interpretation, providing very real examples of what it means to get things wrong and learn from mistakes.2 When paired with history, we can see the strengths and weaknesses of science. It's a fantastic area of study with sci-fi-esque applications. Science is also all to susceptible to philosophical and political influence. Studying science as we did opened up discussion for other areas of study -- such as Scripture -- which are also colored by presuppositions. All of this nudged me toward humility and ever further study.
Okay, if you haven't yet read the original article, do so! It blew my mind and got me so excited about science yet again.
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad
1. If you have yet to experience Sonlight's hands-on Science programs, check out the Science Explorations which are fewer than $50 and come with a $20 Science package coupon if you order by the end of this month.
2. Here are just a handful of posts related to interpretation and scientific surprises: the discovery of a minor planet with rings (not thought to be possible), some thoughts on a comedian who thinks science is always right, my own ignorance of how planes fly, and a fun little bit about lightning.
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