Frank C Langbein
Ex Tenebris Scientia
Updates: Outreach

Science seeks to understand the universe by building models matching empirical evidence. One of its other, equally important aims is to make this knowledge accessible to ordinary people, which is what I aim to achieve in these section for some topics related to my research. Specifically this section contains information about my efforts in public engagement in science related to my research, but also some more general information.

Science seeks to understand the physical world based on observable evidence which may either be collected by observing natural phenomena and/or experiments. To describe physical phenomena for which such evidence has been gathered, one may create a (often mathematical) model. To describe a particular physical phenomenon, a hypothesis to explain the evidence is formulated. This hypothesis can then be tested by verifying its predictions relating to either experiments or observing the physical world. If this new evidence contradicts the hypothesis, the hypothesis is rejected, and must at least be suitably adjusted to be consistent with the evidence. Once sufficient evidence to support a hypothesis has been gathered, it becomes a scientific theory.

Note that with this methodology a hypothesis may be falsified by evidence, but can never be established as absolute truth. This is, however, the only way we can actually try to understand the physical world based on observable evidence. We aim to build the simplest model, sufficiently complex to explain the data, but not more complex than required (according to Occam's razor).

Firstly note, that there is not really any deeper understanding going on - we build a model that matches the evidence. Interpreting this model beyond that is at best philosophy (and possibly at worst religion). So in this sense we can say how things work, not why they work like this. That is maybe a question everyone has to answer for themself, if at all, and highly distrust anyone claiming they have got such answers.

Secondly, the fact that we cannot establish absolute truth does not mean anyone or anything else can. It is a principal limitation of what can be done by observing nature, and nothing can do better or establish anything resembling absolute truth (in particular religion and other fantasies cannot go beyond this, no matter how desperate they are claiming they do; often this appears as a feeble attempt to gain power instead of gaining understanding or meaning).

With these pages, I hope to show what we know and do not know in areas of science related to my research. I am mainly working on geometric and computational modelling of the physical world and seek to use these models for practical engineering applications. If you want, science aims to explain the universe, while engineering seeks to make things work using such knowledge.

Cite as Outreach, by Frank C Langbein [30/May/2008, 17:58].
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