Science is seeing
in more and more sophisticated ways.

There are several "insights" a person can develop to help see science.  And greatly broaden understanding and usefulness of modern technology, as well as help point in new directions that the technology might take.

Science is usually not what it seems at first glance.  Profound misunderstanding follows when those necessary second glances are not taken.  However, the person who takes some successful second glances will gain substantial advantages in today's technological competitions.

The trigger that set off modern science started with the physics advances made by Galileo, Kepler, and Newton and culminated during the last years of the 17th century with Newton's three laws of motion.  Every elementary physics course teaches those laws early in the course to millions of students.  Very few of those learners (perhaps 5 to 15 percent) understand sufficiently well to recognize and use the laws when they face them in day-to-day life.

This is a good place to start taking second glances.

You can do it.

Take a second look.

Did you learn what Newton taught?
Did you

Look again.

Helen McGinnis approaching False Entrance landing.
Helen's brother Rich just landed.
Newton's 1st Law (of motion)

To make that boat move through the water, Helen has to keep rowing.  When she stops rowing, the boat slows to a stop—with respect to the water, that is.  Rowing with the oars applies a force to the boat to keep it moving.  Our experiences suggest to us that motion and applied force go hand in hand.  If we have motion, there must be a force that produces the motion.  Succintly stated:

Motion implies a force.

That's simply wrong, and one of the first steps in mankind's 17th century great leap toward modern science was Newton's realization of the error.  Newton saw that our common sense gives us a first glance that must be corrected.

The error comes when we fail to see that other forces are acting on the boat in addition to that of the oars.  Friction of the water drags the boat to a stop.  We need to reduce that friction as best as we can.  Jean Piaget watched children play with objects rolling across surfaces with varying amounts of friction: carpeting, cardboard, linoleum, marble, for example.  A very few (about 5%) discovered that as the friction gets less and less the motion of the ball gets more and more constant.  In the limit of no friction, a ball rolls at constant velocity.  In the limit of no forces acting on it, a body retains it's velocity (which might be zero).  Those children discovered that motion does not imply a force.

That's Newton's first law of motion.

John Clement taught hundreds of college students Newton's first law of motion.  After the courses were over he tested them for understanding of that law.  About 95% had retained the false belief that motion implies a force.

Five percent of Piaget's young children understood the law, had "seen" it, and had discovered it for themselves by working through puzzling experiences.  Five percent of Clement's college students understood the law, while the remaining 95 percent had simply learned it, and learned a lot of ritualistic things to do with it, but had not "seen" it.

Learning was irrelevant to "seeing" Newton's first law.

Piaget described the mental processes of those children who "saw" as being the recognition of multiple variables, sorting the relevant from the irrelevant, and extrapolating to unattainable limits.

Just as it is very difficult for a person with protanopic color vision to understand what three-component color means (and very difficult for a person with "normal" human color vision to understand what four-component color means), it is very difficult for that 95% of learners to understand how the 5% "sees" Newton's first law of motion.

We cannot add to the dimensionality of the color we see; that is, we cannot increase the number of types of cones on our retina.  However, researchers in physics education have found ways that work to increase the percentage who "see" the abstractions of elementary science.  When we "see" we become aware that the knowledge we obtain: 1) is undeniable in a special way; 2) cannot be "reversed" or "unlearned"; 3) is profoundly useful because we can see it in new and unfamiliar situations.  That's like the depth we see after we develop stereopsis.  It's also like the insight we (might) get in Martin Gardner's buzz-saw puzzle and chessboard-with-two-squares-removed puzzle.  Perhaps even more to the point, it's like "seeing" the solution to Wason's card-selection puzzle or vos Savant's door selection puzzle.

The solutions to these puzzles are more often not seen than seen, and those who don't see may be baffled by the inflexible—even "closed-minded" —stance of those who do.  But when the seer uses the knowledge seen, the unseer might then feel that a "miracle" has occured.  Such is the mystery, such is the nature, of science.

Navigating Second Glances