30 thoughts on “Another Mars-related tweet

  1. A crowd chanting “Science! Science! Science!” may seem a relative relief. It may be a good thing.

    But given social dynamics, I’m wary of any chanting crowd. Even one I should agree with.

      1. I co-organised Celtic folk festivals when I was young. Believe me, the chanting was nowhere near the worst part of it.

        Besides, a crowd chanting “Science!” and “NASA!” at a folk festival would have reeked of substance abuse.

  2. I’m glad the crowd was chanting science but I’m also waiting for the religious crowd and Fox news to say they should of been giving praises to god. They won’t like it that people didn’t give their (Fox News) god all the credit. They would of been happier with the chant magic magic magic. Just saying..

  3. “Science Science Science”!!

    Wow! That makes my eyes watery.

    I firmly believe that that is what most people in the USA truly believe, but the social momentum of deity-based thinking is difficult to jettison when it keeps getting hammered back upon us with calls for “our prayers” with every misfortune that occurs.

  4. They should have been shouting; “technology, technology technology” or “engineering, engineering, engineering.”

    I find it frustrating that people confuse technology with science.

    Science is a way of knowing and we didn’t learn a thing about the natural world by just putting a machine on Mars. The science will come later, we hope.

    1. That’d be a bit awkward in the execution, don’t you think? Their chant rolls off the tongue; yours, not so much.
      Love the blog!

    2. I think this is a rather narrow definition of the word “science”. Certainly this effort has taught us something about how to land a large exploration robot on the surface of a distant planet. Differentiating science (defined broadly, as we tend to do on this website) and technology doesn’t make sense. You don’t get much of either without the other.

      1. Science does not require technology, especially if one uses a broad definition of science that includes the activities of historians and philosophers.

        But even if you use a narrow definition there are people like Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein who didn’t use a lot of advanced technology.

        There are lots of other science types who aren’t wedded to advanced technologies.

        Science is the search for knowledge where knowledge is something like “truth.” We didn’t gain any of this kind of knowledge by inventing intermittent windshield wipers, Xboxes, or by landing a robot on Mars.

        If we’re going to advance scientific literacy then we’ve got to teach the general public that there’s a difference between knowledge and its applications. Otherwise they’re only going to support technology.

        1. “Science does not require technology”


          How did Charles Darwin manage to sail for 5 years collecting in South America and the Galapagos? Ships are technology. Even Einstein’s pen and paper are technology. There is no science that has ever happened that did not rely on technology. I suppose one can make a reasonable argument that protohuman tool use (and non-human tool use) is a form of technology that occurs in the absence of science, but since the first human who tried to figure out why one technology works better than another we’ve been doing some kind of science-broadly-defined.

          Now, if we’re going to have to get into an argument about what constitutes “advanced” technology, then I’m going to let you have that discussion over in the corner. Because that’s not a very interesting conversation as far as I’m concerned.

          1. Quite.

            I was just going to ask Larry how much of his scientific research he’d be able to do without technology.

            Yes, they’re different. But they’re mutually enabling.

            And how are we going to establish the “truth” about life on Mars without landing a robot (or a man!) on the planet?


            1. “Mutually enabling” is the key, it seems to me.

              Some science may not require technology, but technology certainly requires science.

              That’s how I understand the chanting: “Look what science has enabled us to achieve!”

            2. Agreed. A lot of breakthroughs in the history of science came from new technology. The heliocentric theory of the solar system came from Copernicus but that theory was tested (and confirmed) by Galileo using a nifty new piece of technology called the telescope. Most of science would be stuck in the 15th century without technology and technology would be stuck with mere mindless trial and error without the insights of science.

          2. Thank-you for illustrating the problem as I see it.

            I see science as a way of knowing that requires healthy skepticism, rational thinking, and evidence. My emphasis is on the mental processes, especially critical thinking. That’s why it applies to almost every discipline, not just the traditional “science” subjects like chemistry, physics, geology, and biology.

            Want to know if homeopathy works? Apply scientific thinking and you’ll get the right answer.

            Many other people see science as a physical process where the emphasis is on following a recipe and on the gathering of evidence rather than using evidence. Those people tend to focus on the tools of the trade in the traditional disciplines and that’s why they get confused about the difference between science and technology.

            1. That seems a very idiosyncratic view, Larry!

              I’d expect most scientists to agree that doing experiments to test predictions is an important part of the scientific method, and, thus, of science, and that there are very few experiments that you can do without any technology or engineering.

              How would you have verified the predicted existence of the Higgs boson (ie, how would you know that it exists) using only scientific thinking, rather than the LHC and scientific thinking?

              Can you provide counterexamples where a plausible scientific hypothesis has been validated (or falsified) without any tools whatsoever?


              1. That seems a very idiosyncratic view, Larry!

                It only seems idiosyncratic because you’ve never been exposed to any other way of defining science other than the traditional “scientific method.”

                Here’s some reading material.

                Rush Holt on Science and Critical Thinking
                Is Science Restricted to Methodologial Naturalism?
                What’s Wrong with Michael Ruse’s View of Accommodationism?

                The broad definition of science is not the majority view but it’s still the view held by a substantial number of people who think about what science is.

              2. Nah, the search for reliable truth requires more than just thinking like a scientist.

                I’m not sure how the other two posts support your assertion here.


            2. Want to understand homeopathy? You wouldn’t even be able to frame the question without the technology to produce sugar pills and bottles to put water in. And you would have no way to evaluate what is in those little pills without technology.

              I’m not sure I understand what your (Larry) final paragraph is saying. I don’t know who those people are. I don’t know what “gathering evidence” means in the absence of “using” it. (You need a “what it is of” to have evidence at all.)

      1. What an excellent way to get our memes/tropes into public consciousness! What are the chances of having a space vehicle called “Skepticism”?

          1. A trope? Ah, lit. crit. again! “a conventional idea or phrase” [NOAD]

            I came across it first in Peter Nicholls’s sf critism, when he attacked mainstream authors who add sf tropes to conventional narratives and think that they are now writing sf.

            Nicholls is one of the contributors to the third, online edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and you can find many examples of this usage, such as: “One favourite Pseudoscience trope often deployed in sf is an extraterrestrial Origin of Man.


          2. “Trope” is also the term used to describe more elaborate musical passages, interpolated into existing plainchants, for use on feast days etc.

            Naturally, this was the context of my first exposure to the word. When I began to encounter it in other contexts, I wondered why all these people would suddenly refer to a medieval compositional practice. Especially when they weren’t discussing music at all.

    1. And how are they going to explain the canyons and rock formations? Was an irate god the cause of a giant flood there too?

  5. At the Carter Observatory in Wellington, astronomer and science educator Claire Bretherton told the 100 of us to “Cross your fingers and hold your breath.”

    I wanted to say something, but I didn’t want to be a spoilsport. I wished I’d brought some peanuts, though.

    We started watching in HD, but the feed froze every few seconds, so they changed to LD, no better than old YouTube, for the rest.

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