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<   No. 2242   2009-03-17   >

Comic #2242

1 Jamie: So, we have access to every explosive that ever existed or will ever exist, anywhere, and a time machine.
2 Adam: Awesome. We can go back and create the Big Bang right now! Not just a new one, but the original one!
3 Jamie: Not so fast. We want to make sure this is done rigorously, in accordance with scientific principles.
4 Adam: Yeah, so?
4 Jamie: We need to create another Big Bang as a control sample.

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You always need a control sample.

2022-01-12 Rerun commentary: It's often taught that in a rigorous method of conducting experiments you need to have control samples, and only change one variable at a time, and so on. This is fine for sciences such as chemistry where you can do experiments in a lab, but for other sciences such as astronomy or geology it's much more difficult to apply.

These are observational sciences, in which you collect data from whatever the universe offers you. You actually can't do an experiment in which you create a thousand stars with varying masses and elemental composition and see what happens to them over billions of years. What you can do is observe as many stars as possible, and sort them by mass and composition, and then look for patterns in the population that reflect how they age over time. This is just as valid a way of doing science as creating experiments, although it can be a bit more difficult to extract information from the data that nature provides.

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