Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/191

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187
INSTRUMENTS AND METHODS OF RESEARCH

tung" (observation) and "Versuch" (experiment). The article on "Beobachtung," by the physicist Muncke, embraces 28 octavo pages. He shows the distinction between "Beobachtungen" (observations) and "Versuche" (experiments) to be that the former pertain to the perceptions of phenomena presented to ns by nature in her unmodified course, whereas in the latter—in the experiments—we are seeking to produce certain results or phenomena, more or less looked for, in order either to verify a law already known or to disprove one suspected of being wrong or even to discover a new one. Both classes of experiences are necessary for a piece of investigation or research work.

Thus, we may behold either visually or in some other way certain striking solar phenomena; these belong to the class of observations which we ourselves are unable to modify in any manner whatsoever. Continued observation may, however reveal a certain law which by experiment in the laboratory, conducted along more or less definite lines, we may seek to imitate in the hope of getting some clue to the modus operandi of the observed phenomena. In this article on "Observations" the author treats in detail the various elements entering into correct methods of investigation, condition of the observer and of his senses, his being unbiased, character and errors of the instruments, errors of results, methods of increasing accuracy, representations of observations by graphs and formulae, method of least squares, etc. He points out the mistake sometimes made, that an established formula satisfying the observed phenomenon within certain limits represents an actual law of nature.

The article "Versuch" (experiment) consists of 44 pages and is contributed by the astronomer Littrow. He shows that the most rapid development takes place in those sciences which afford the greatest opportunity for experimentation, referring, e. g., to the slow and painful progress of the astronomer as long as he had to confine him self to mere celestial observations and the comparatively rapid strides which occurred as soon as some of the observed phenomena could be either imitated by, or be compared with, those derived by laboratory experiment. The investigator, he says, must be absolutely free from preconceptions and be careful, cautious and unbiased in his interpretation of what his senses may reveal to him. He illustrates how man, called jokingly "das Ursachenthier" (the animal ever bent on ascertaining the cause of things), proceeds in ferreting out the why and wherefore of observed phenomena, and how his methods of circumspection develop with the advance of knowledge.

Though man can not determine the "Endursachen," or ultimate causes of things, the field open to him to discover the laws governing phenomena or, vice versa, classifying and enumerating those which