- Porcupine quills cure cancer (okay, not porcupine quills, but peach pits);
- Vitamin C cures the common cold (an otherwise good scientist goes slightly off his rocker, and everyone follows suit in the face of overwhelming evidence against the hypothesis);
- aliens abducted my mother (and every other supermarket checkout headline);
- Vitamin E halts aging (last study I read about found it slightly harmful in large doses).
- The latest activities of Brangelina, Britney, Paris, Bennifer, Julia, Bruce, Nicolle, Tom, Mel.
- how to achieve something new;
- what happens if you do something a different way.
- What are the hoses?
- What are they doing there?
- Why are they there?
- Who put the hoses there?
- How long will they be there?
- Can I remove them?
- Can I move them?
- Are there any consequences to them being there?
- Will there be more?
- Can they damage my car?
What are the hoses? I believe I know that they are for counting the number of cars going by. In research, it is important to identify what you know already, and also to know how certain something is. I believe this, but it is knowledge from my childhood, not from being told by the owner of the hoses.
What are the hoses doing there? Measuring traffic. In a few places, there are a pair of hoses close by. That could be used to measure speed, for example, because the traffic engineers know the distance between the hoses. Actual speeds of cars is useful for setting speed limits, and knowing whether drivers are treating a road as unsafe. The impact of a stop sign is determined partly by the speeds that cars go past the intersection.
Why are they there? Well, obviously somebody or someone wants to consider changing the traffic signs: speed signs, presence of two or four stop signs, perhaps a cross walk.
Bringing other information to bear is important in research. I know that this street has recently been extended. It used to go nowhere, but now it is a through street. Many houses have been built along the road. Traffic patterns must be different from when the street was originally marked. I know people often complain about hazardous traffic conditions in our neighborhood (though I don't know of any complaints about this street), and this street is more hazardous than many, because cars park on both sides of the street, it is busy, and it is not particularly wide. When someone opens a car door on the street side, pulls out of a driveway or parking space onto the road, or when the trash truck or mailman stop their vehicles, an unsafe condition is created. Pedestrians are at risk because the street turns, and they cannot be seen. Skateboarders occasionally pull directly out into traffic along the street.
Making suppositions can be fun and useful. I conclude from this information that traffic changes may be warranted, and due to the many hoses placed, that quite a number of changes are under consideration. Possibilities include four way stops, speed limit changes, and I bet parking restrictions on one side of the street (boy would that be unpopular for residents!) are options I would consider.
But be aware that these are suppositions, and not facts!
What is the truth? How can I proceed? There are several possible actions I could take here:
- Someone knows about those hoses, just not me. Research includes getting information from other people or sources when you do not know yourself. This may be considered spreading information around, rather than discovering something totally new. On the other hand, it is new to me, and for me that is research.
- I could ask city traffic engineers (probably best);
- I could ask a traffic engineer not connected with these hoses;
- I could look up about traffic management in books or the web.
- I could collect more data. In this situation, if I wait, the hoses will disappear, and traffic changes will or will not occur. If after six months or a year no changes have occurred, then I conclude that no changes were warranted. Personally, my bet is something will change.
Aliens and acts of God would predict destruction of the street as equally likely as traffic changes, or straightening the street, or permanent hail storms. If those happened, my suppositions would be discredited, and the aliens/act of God hypothesis would be indicated, though not proven!
Residents directly installing the hoses seems implausible -- the hoses are specialized equipment, carefully and systematically installed, not someone's expensive play toys. Seems unlikely to me, though this could also lead to traffic pattern changes.
In summary: when I see new data (traffic changes, or no changes or miraculous straightening of curvy roads) I will change my opinions. Traffic changes increases the probability of my suppositions, and the resident hypothesis. But the resident hypothesis was implausible to begin with. No changes means I learn nothing and am left with my suppositions, because they seem most likely to me in the first place. Straightening the roads will cause me to either reread HG Wells, or start going to church, synagogue or mosque, depending on the decorations of the newly straightened road.
Research is an attitude. It is a way of thinking about the world, always looking, seeing, observing. It is about thinking of the whys, wherefores, whats and hows of the world
- Why things are the way they are,
- What are they in the first place??
- How they came to be?
- Wherefore will happen next because the world is the way it is right now?