There is no single step-by-step method by which all science is done.
A classical misconception identifies the production of scientific knowledge by a sort of cybernetic model. At the beginning there is a research question, then a hypothesis is constructed, and experiment is designed to test the hypothesis, the experiment is realised, its result either solves the research question, or brings the scientist back to the construction of an hypothesis. A closer analysis of knowledge production in the sciences reveals that this scheme does not form an adequate representation, moreover, there are other methodological approaches how scientific knowledge can be produced.
Stories where this aspect plays an important role are:
- The immediate use of solar energy is indeed known for quite some time already. This story tells you about the development of the first solar powered cookstove and the political and economical reasons, why it did not become a best practice model.
- "The notorious scurvy" is maybe the best-known illness from which seamen of all times suffered. James Lind, a ship's doctor, was able to find the cause of the scurvy by employing a highly systematic approach: a comparative, experimentally-based study on his patients. More details can be found in the narration
- The formulation of the mechanical equivalent of heat was instrumental in defining the first law of thermodynamics, which describes the conservation of energy. Two stories, which stress different aspects of the scientific work, will provide insight into Joule's set of experiments by which he determined the ratio of heat and mechanical work.
- What is the nature of heat – is it a substance or infinitesimal movement of matter? Among others, the Bavarian War Minister Benjamin Thompson, later known as Count Rumford, found an answer by analysing the drilling process for manufacturing cannons.
- What would be a suitable model to describe the likeness of an atom? Rutherford's experimental findings were in contradiction to the theories represented by his PhD thesis advisor J.J.Thompson. Sitting over Christmas dinner 1911 he has an idea...