The Gospel According to the Scientific Method

In the beginning

My first encounter with the scientific method was in grade 4. Purpose? Check. Hypothesis? Check. Procedure? Check. Results and possible sources of error? Check. Conclusion? Check. Congratulations!  You’ve just done science! The approach seemed elegant and had rigour. Scientific rigour, if you will. The beauty of it all was that an 8 year old can grasp it.

Flash forward to the present. I hear phrases such as, “Oh, I don’t buy the results of that study” or its equally-evil twin, “Yeah, it’s true. I read it somewhere.” Do you see what I see? Alack! A lack of understanding of the tenets of the scientific method. Or perhaps some laziness in speech — that is more forgivable.  However, it often seems as though it is the former.

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iPad? How bad?

Update: So it looks like my estimates for the carbon dioxide emissions were way off.  I guess iPad’s components must be particularly carbon-unfriendly per unit mass; if I had to speculate, it’s due to a higher component weight to frame weight than on the computers considered here.  Updated results at the end of this post; you can follow along using the original text, substituting in the new values for manufacturing.  It looks like my estimates for power adapter efficiency and power consumption are pretty much spot on, though.

Jorge Aranda tells me his brother is considering one of those newfangled iPads to reduce his environmental footprint:

His reasoning is that it will help him pay for “content” without damaging the Earth –specifically, he’s talking about reading the newspaper, magazines, and e-books in the iPad, instead of buying them in paper version.

I suspected, and told him, that on the whole this would probably mean an *increase* in environmental damage, rather than a decrease. He’s not convinced.

Jorge then adds the question that prompted the creation of this blog: “Who is right?”

So will buying an iPad to replace print materials reduce carbon emissions or just result in more iWaste?

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To Print or Not to Print?

During the summer, I was musing on Vannevar Bush’s ideas presented in his paper As We May Think.  Having the attention span of a…  where was I?  Oh, yes.  So my mind wandered to thinking about by how much our carbon footprint could be reduced by switching to a paperless office.  The answer surprised me and I mentioned it idly to my research supervisor, Steve Easterbrook.  He suggested I publish it on a blog and we discussed the creation of a software tool to help present the argument more clearly.  I’ve finally worked up the nerve to start up this blog to do the former and the latter is in the works.  So here is my first post detailing how much carbon dioxide is emitted by reading a page of text on a computer instead of printing it out.  Ladies and gentlemen, start your stopwatches!

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