• Question: do all scientists theorise or is it just the smart ones

    Asked by beano on 20 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Kaitlin Wade

      Kaitlin Wade answered on 24 Jun 2019:


      All scientists theorise and hypothesise.

      If you have an idea about how something is or you question something and want to find the answer, you could argue that this is theorising/hypothesising.

      What scientists do is just slightly more practical – they have a theory and either perform experiments or analyses to try and prove that theory to be correct (or disprove it!).

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 24 Jun 2019:


      Interesting question! I would argue that all scientists theorise/hypothesise; the smartest ones test their hypotheses with appropriately controlled experiments and do everything they can to disprove their hypotheses before drawing conclusions.

    • Photo: Marianne King

      Marianne King answered on 25 Jun 2019:


      All scientists do I think. 🙂 We like to ask questions and then think of the best ways of trying to find out the answer.

    • Photo: Shobhana Nagraj

      Shobhana Nagraj answered on 25 Jun 2019:


      That’s a great quetsion! I think this depends largely on the field of science you are working in – some fields of science give opportunities to develop theories through experiments and observations, other fields of science can be quite practical, but even in the practical applied areas of science, theories can be generated too.

      For example in theoretical physics, Einstein thought of theories to explain what happens when light travels through a vacuum, some of his theories are only being proven true now – but in applied physics – one of my friends is an applied physicist and he works on understanding how molecules and forces behave to inform nanotechnology for mobile phones. This doesn’t generate theory but could do and people doing this are equally smart!

    • Photo: James Streetley

      James Streetley answered on 25 Jun 2019:


      I came here to say almost exactly what Nina said. All scientists theorise and hypothesise. I’d say all people hypothesise, because we’re always solving small puzzles by making a prediction and trying out solutions. Sometimes for fun like playing video games but also for solving problems at home or with the bike, car, whatever. But like Nina says, the smart part in science is not having the theory, but thinking about how you could test that theory to see if it is true, and test it fairly so you can have confidence that you’ve found the right answer.

    • Photo: Ettie Unwin

      Ettie Unwin answered on 25 Jun 2019:


      I think all scientists do, and to some extent all people. Even children ask questions to work out why or how something works and do simple tests to work out if they are right.

    • Photo: Matthew Burgess

      Matthew Burgess answered on 26 Jun 2019:


      Almost everyone will theorise to some extent. Anyone driving their own research will be coming up with theorise on how a particular detail works and then design experiments to test that theory. At the higher end this will be many theories on a big overall question.
      But even at the other end of that, support staff and technicians who make sure that the work is able to be done and provide specialist support for complicated techniques will be doing hypothesis-led work on how to make a specific experiment or to fix something.

      At it’s very base level science is asking questions of our surroundings in a theory and evidence led manner. So to be a scientist is to theorise.

    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 26 Jun 2019:


      Everyone in the whole world theorises to some extent, but for scientists, this is something which we all do.

    • Photo: Deepak Chandrasekharan

      Deepak Chandrasekharan answered on 27 Jun 2019:


      Imagination is one of the most important bits of science and it’s a lot of fun to theories. The really good bit is when you design experiments to test and prove these theories. This is one of the (but not necessarily the best or only) ways the ‘scientific method’ works after Karl Popper – come up with a testable theory, test it/try disprove see if it could be true or false!

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