Saturday, November 28, 2015

Al About Story: Part One

Story is the way we make sense of the world. Take science, for example. You gather data. Some of it agrees with other bits of it. Some of it doesn’t. You gather more data. Eventually you make a story that connects the data. We call it a theory.

A “story” can be fictional or true, or it can mix the two together. A scientific theory is like that last option. At least some of it is true, or so the researchers believe. Though the parts we think are true today might turn out not to be true tomorrow. Researchers also know that some parts of a theory probably aren’t true, but they won’t find out what is or isn’t true until more data comes in.

Once in a while, to try to make sense out of a theory that has too many gaps, scientists throw in a known falsity. They call it a hypothetical construct. It serves its purpose to help the story flow smoothly, but it’s like a plot twist forced onto a tale by the author during the first draft. It never feels completely right, and hopefully it gets replaced during the revision process.

As the years go by and theories are tested, and as they pass those tests, they move closer and closer to being true in the final sense of that word. And they help us understand a very complex and chaotic universe by turning it into stories full of meaning and relevance.


We humans are constantly in the process of telling stories. Science is just one of type of story, though one very interesting to me. In future posts I'll explore a few other types of stories.

18 comments:

oscar case said...

Speaking of scientific theory,PBS had Einstein's bio on covering his discovery of the Theory or Relativity which is quite a story in itself, taking years of development as new things were discovered. I enjoyed watching it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Oscar case, I love a good scientific mystery story

sage said...

Good stories can make even dry subjects exciting! I look forward to this series on stories.

Cloudia said...

Sounds like an important new direction, Charles. I know the work will teach you many things. Best wishes!

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, thankee

Cloudia, appreciate it!

the walking man said...

I personally prefer my science without math theorem in them, other than that speculate away with experimentation...if you ever need some human subjects for trials, please contact me. I will give you a list.

pattinase (abbott) said...

By making data into a story, scholars allow the lay person to understand their work. Some teachers are very skilled at this.

Snowbrush said...

Yes, science is a kind of story, but to call it "just another story" (as many do) implies that it’s no better or worse than mythology and religion, “stories” that remain large static (except where finally disproven by science) and are thought to be beyond questioning.

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, I do have a list already, my friend. Some folks we know are on it. :)

Patti, I'm going to talk about stories and teaching. I find it very effective.

Snowbrush, Every story has its worth. but, of course, science has tremendous worth outside of being a story.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

Intriguing concept, my friend.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernard, thanks, man

Riot Kitty said...

That's really interesting! I have never thought of science in that way.

Charles Gramlich said...

Riot Kitty, cool.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

A thoughtful post, Charles. I like weaving stories around daily situations peppered with imagination.

Erik Donald France said...

Excellent. Stories try to make randomness seem coherent -- make some sense out of chaos or pattern. This. Makes. Perfect. Sense.

Charles Gramlich said...

Prashant, it's always fun to twist everyday things a bit.

Erik, absolutely. The way we're built

Aimlesswriter said...

I like where you say it can always change as new info comes along.

jodi said...

Charles-love your clear explanation!