Scientific Inquiry And The Limits Of Technology

Scientists are always asking and answering questions. In order to get answers, they must follow steps through discovery and analysis. Formulating a hypothesis and designing an experiment to test the hypothesis are the first steps in all scientific inquiry.

Once a test has been designed, data must be collected. When collecting data, it is important to maintain data integrity and obtain a representative sample of what is being measured. Then data needs to be interpreted or analyzed. The results of the analysis enable the scientist to draw final conclusions. Depending on the result, the scientist can adjust his hypothesis and run more experimentation or take the study further by posing new questions that may, or may not, relate to the original question. This can lead to new investigations and discoveries.

Scientific inquiry requires keen, discriminating observance. It also requires the ability to group related ideas and objects and interpret and quantify data and explain its significance. It also requires deductive reasoning to reach conclusions.

Through scientific research, scientists have learned that nature has a predetermined order, and they seek to find and characterize its patterns. As each new piece of scientific knowledge is gained, science is advanced. Advancements build upon previous advancements. Because these advancements were made with carefully tested procedures, the results are also repeatable, making them solid enough to develop theories.

Because of the rapid spread of technology, some people believe that answers to all scientific questions will eventually be obtainable. This may not be the case. There are some very real limits to technology and what is possible. Some goals or achievements may never be possible. It is important to understand the limits of technology as it relates to science. This is especially relevant to global warming. As changes are needed to control and adapt to the problem, it is important to know what is technically feasible and what is not and to work within that framework.

Technology is limited by adherence to physical laws. It must follow specific, predefined steps that may not be technologically possible. For example, nuclear fusion is understood in the scientific community, but limited by technology. Once the technology is developed, it is believed it will be the new cheap, safe, clean, and almost limitless energy source of the future.

There are also limits imposed by equipment, such as computer hardware and software. Sometimes it might cost too much to develop software to handle a specific problem or developing the required equipment may not be feasible. There are also mathematical constraints. In order to be able to create some of the models necessary to mimic weather and climate, incredibly complicated mathematical algorithms must be written. The Earth's climate system is so complicated, with so many interactive variables on both long- and short-term scales, that the knowledge and ability of scientists is continually challenged when trying to create realistic, reliable, and accurate models. As scientists continue to learn and understand more about this complicated system, some of these mathematical constraints are eliminated; but mathematical constraints do present a critical challenge.

There are also design and developmental limitations in creating climate models to measure, analyze, and assess global warming. Again, because the Earth's climate is such a complicated system, with so many different subsystems, writing software code for models is an enormous task. In addition, there are several parameters that can be assessed in the global warming problem—both natural and anthropogenic, such as wind speed, wind direction, temperature, pressure, circulation, clouds, presence of continents, presence of ice, etc. The ways these work together and separately can also contribute to different outcomes. Models must take all of these contingencies into consideration, as well as unexpected or unexplained scenarios.

Economic limitations also crop up. Scientific research and advancements are costly. It takes significant investments of capital to fund scientific research, to buy equipment to run labs, and to invest in hardware/ software development. Because of this, many countries cannot afford to invest in and carry on research toward understanding and finding a solution to global warming. Often, in developed countries, it is the federal, state, and local government agencies that come up with the funding for scientific research and development. That is why much of the data on global warming is housed at agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), EPA, NASA, and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Research and work accomplished by universities is also often funded by government agencies.

Was this article helpful?

0 0


  • helen
    Why is it important to know the limitations of technology?
    9 months ago

Post a comment