Please Note: The following post was written on breaks at work and is now being typed into the computer by me. This is often the case with my posts, but I felt the need to specifically point it out because of my first sentence. Is that silly? Oh, hell, when am I not?
I am eating a few peanuts. Not too many, because I want to save most of them for my next break. But a few, because I am hungry. I make a note of this because it occurred to me that I could eat just one peanut and thus disprove the truism that nobody can eat just one peanut.
Then I thought, “Surely somebody has eaten just one peanut for precisely that reason.” There are many people who just have to be that way. For example, I know of at least two people who have purposefully sat and watched a pot boil. Come to think of it, I’ve watched a pot boil myself. Not to disprove the adage but because I did not have anything better to do while I waited for it to boil.
I wrote the preceding during my first break at work. I spent the next couple of hours trying to think of other cliches to disprove. Of course I have written about Cliches Revisited before; it is one of my favorite topics. I thought this time I could approach it from the angle of practical experiments to prove or disprove cliches.
I did not come up with any but in writing that paragraph I suddenly realized that the so-called experiments I mentioned before are not true scientific experiments. They lack a control.
I remember when I was in 8th grade (or was it 9th?), we learned about experiments. Our assignment was to pick a saying and devise an experiment to prove or disprove it. I picked, “If you kill a ladybug it will rain.” My experiment was to get seven ladybugs, kill one a day for a week and see if it rained. Kind of hard on the ladybugs, but I didn’t intend to actually carry out the experiment.
The teacher said my experiment lacked a control. At first I thought, “What for? The control is The rest of the time when I’m not doing the experiment.” Eventually the lesson sank in. You have to compare the ladybug-killing week to a specific non-ladybug-killing week. That is how you obtain scientific evidence.
So how do you do a control for the experiments I mentioned earlier? Would you eat a whole lot of peanuts or not eat any peanuts? Perhaps I need to consult an actual scientist about that one. The boiling water thing seems pretty straightforward. Just don’t watch a pot and see if it boils. I know: how can you see if it boils if you don’t watch it at least a little? Obviously this scientific stuff is not as easy as it may at first appear.
Full disclosure: I only started writing this because I had absolutely no idea of what to write about so just jotted down my immediate thoughts to get my pen moving. I kind of like what I ended up with. I am a little regretful that I only mentioned two cliches, though. After all, three’s the charm. Or is it?