Well...I finally have the main narrative finished for my upcoming ARRL tome. I still have to put all the fun stuff like graphics and equations in. But it's been a great deal of fun. It should be in print early 2013.
Here's just a tiny taste.
The Gift of Suspicion
One of my mentors in lab experimentation was proud to declare that he had a finely-tuned gift of suspicion. The longer I’ve been in science, the more I realize how valuable (and rare!) the gift of suspicion is. Unfortunately, in recent years within the amateur radio community, the gift of suspicion is not as finely tuned as it ought to be. We tend to see what we want to see, or what the advertisers want us to see. Sometimes this diverges from reality to a large degree.
I work with a lot of pilots, although to my shame, I’ve never acquired a pilot’s license; a character defect I am currently in the process of remediating. Nevertheless, I have learned a few things about piloting a plane…and a helicopter, especially in really bad weather, such as we often have in Interior Alaska. A good instrument rated pilot is trained never to trust his senses, no matter how convincing they may be. Relying on your senses will get you killed flying in Alaska, and a lot of other places. It takes a great deal of discipline to trust your instruments and not your feelings…or your long-held beliefs. Although a wrong opinion in a laboratory won’t get you killed as fast as it will flying a small plane, it can have longer lasting effects. Stupid ideas tend to acquire very long half-lives. (We’ll talk about half lives in a subsequent chapter).
Good scientific method is politically incorrect…brutally so. Physical reality is not subject to the whims of Washington D.C. or Wall Street. If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. Period.
Does this seem restrictive and confining? Not at all! As we will learn, the first step toward new discovery is the ability to say, “I was wrong.” When a valid instrument reveals that you were wrong (and often everyone else before you was wrong!) you may find yourself in the rare position of having made an actual scientific discovery.
Just to be fair, we need to point out one case where your senses may be fairly reliable, or at least trainable. This is the ability to recognize quack science when it appears. In this case, your experience may be the best instrument there is.
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.