This post is dedicated to my Smith geologist friend, Dot, on her birthday. We surely enjoyed many a puddingstone outcrop in New England! Here is a thin section of the Roxbury Conglomerate, informally known as the Roxbury puddingstone:
Last fall's puddingstone post remains the most popular at PEOTS so a tangential revisit to these conglomerates is in order:
The article linked below discusses proof (but not necessarily in the puddingstone) and theory as being two of the most misunderstood and misused words regarding science:
MISUSED SCIENTIFIC WORDS: FROM THEORY TO PROOF TO ORGANIC
It's a good list. Ten items is a reasonable number to absorb--like the 10 items at the fast line at the grocery store or David Letterman's top 10 list. It's a catchy way to get the general public thinking about scientific vocabulary. It's not perfect but it'll do.
I'd like to focus on the first two words, proof and theory, but the other eight words/phrases are worth a look also.
The phrase "Theories are malleable, but not infinitely so" resonated with me. We know plate tectonics is essentially the way features on the earth's surface are formed, but it is the constant refining and sculpting with more and more data that makes the theory malleable and testable (since Alfred Wegner proposed it in 1939). The defining characteristic of all scientific knowledge, including theories, is the ability to make falsifiable or testable predictions (as we've discussed earlier).
"The fact that science never really proves anything, but simply creates more and more reliable and comprehensive theories of the world that nevertheless are always subject to update and improvement, is one of the key aspects of why science is so successful." We don't really "prove" things. We refine, bolster, add to a mountain of evidence. . .but scientific proof is different from that "proof is in the pudding(stone)." We can't taste the fruits of our research and get the "proof" as we can in cooking.
The hot, steamy cooking of the earth like this Fly Geyser in Nevada, remains part of the theory of plate tectonics. We just can't consume it or prove it:
Here's to another great trip around the sun,
Steph (Word Woman)