Saturday, February 14, 2009

Car Talk as part of the science curriculum?

Why not? This Saturday morning NPR call-in car repair show has over 150 times more fans on Facebook than Science Friday, NPR's science show - and they demonstrate, one caller at a time, how to apply the scientific method to everyday problems (most often, but not limited to, car repair and relationship advice). Science Friday will always, for obvious reasons, be a better place to go for science news but if you want to hear the scientific method executed equisitely, I suggest tuning in. It even seems to be really popular with the college professor crowd (either that or college professors' cars break down more often!)

Firstly, the breadth and depth of their knowledge is enough to rival any botanist or other taxonomist. (Yes, I realize there are many more species than makes of car but you get the point.)

Secondly, they gather up as much evidence as they can from the caller (in comedic fashion too I might add) and formulate a hypothesis. Ray, the younger brother, even has an ability to tease information out in a distinctly House MD-esque fashion.

Lastly, and here's the best part, when possible they devise simple binary experiments (with yes/no answers) to test their hypotheses so the caller knows what they're talking about when they go in to get it fixed.

This is just a tongue in cheek suggestion with the bigger point that we don't have to look to the chemistry or physics lab to teach the scientific method (not that there's anything wrong with those two, just that they're not for everyone). We are surrounded by an often less formalized but maybe more palatable form of it, which should be used so we can get through to everyone!

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