New data suggesting the presence of granite on Mars also suggests that the planet is more geologically complex than previously believed.


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The uncertainty of science: New data suggesting the presence of granite on Mars also suggests that the planet is more geologically complex than previously believed.

In my years of science writing, I can’t count the number of times I’ve written the phrase “more complex than previously believed.” For some reason, modern scientists seem to always assume that things will be simple, with one straight-forward answer. From gamma ray bursts to supernovae to planetary formation to whatever, the first example found and the first theory developed from that first example has repeatedly been expected to explain everything.

But that’s not how things work. Instead, the closer scientists have looked, the more complex and interesting things have always become. Many different things can cause gamma ray bursts. Supernovae come in many types. Solar systems don’t have to resemble ours. Everything is always more complex than you first believe.

Scientists would get things wrong less often if they simply kept this thought in mind, at all times.

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2 comments

  • Edward

    Scientists and engineers tend to start with Occam’s Razor and assume the simplest huypothesis at the beginning of their investigation. It may not give the correct answer soonest, but it gives a foundation to build upon as newer evidence is found.

    Looking at our solar system, one assumes the simplistic: rocky planets form closer to the star and gas giants form farther way. Then computer models suggest otherwise, and finally observation of other solar systems confirms the more complex solar systems.

    It is not as satisfying as knowing the answer right away, but it is less Aristotlean than declaring the wrong answer and believing it for centuries.

  • ken anthony

    Believing the wrong answer for centuries is exactly what we do. All the time. Nothing wrong with that of course, unless we believe our bias in another direction. Which, of course, we do. All the time.

    But being amazingly resilient, when new knowledge comes forth we have many declaring… “I knew it all along.”

    Face it. Life is a comedy.

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