Experimental Science
Science Analogy
Electrical-Mechanical Analogy. Dr. Kevin Craig. Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. (local copy)

Experimental Science is a method that arbitrates between competing models or hypotheses. Experimentation is used to test existing theories or new hypotheses in order to support them or disprove them. An experiment or test can be carried out using the scientific method to answer a question or investigate a problem. First an observation is made. Then a question is asked, or a problem arises. Next, a hypothesis is formed. Then experiment is used to test that hypothesis. The results are analyzed, a conclusion is drawn, sometimes a theory is formed, and results are communicated through research papers. A natural experiment is an observational study in which the assignment of treatments to subjects has been haphazard: That is, the assignment of treatments has been made "by nature", but not by experimenters. Field experiments apply the scientific method to experimentally examine an intervention in the real world (or as many experimentalists like to say, naturally occurring environments) rather than in the laboratory. Field experiments, like lab experiments, generally randomize subjects (or other sampling units) into treatment and control groups and compare outcomes between these groups.

External articles


  • Tim Harford: Trial, error and the God complex : Economics writer Tim Harford studies complex systems — and finds a surprising link among the successful ones: they were built through trial and error. In this sparkling talk from TEDGlobal 2011, he asks us to embrace our randomness and start making better mistakes.


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