• Question: What happens ifa science experiment goes wrong?

    Asked by danp to Daniel, Jon, Louise, Sharon, Zoe on 23 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Sharon Sneddon

      Sharon Sneddon answered on 22 Jun 2010:

      Well, quite a few of my experiments don’t work, so I guess that is them going wrong! Most of the time, you just have to start again, and if you know what went wrong the first time, you can fix it, the difficult part is when you don’t know what has gone wrong, as it can be really frustrating! It’s part of being a scientist though, trying to troubleshoot things, and solve problems! I prefer it when things go right though!

    • Photo: Jon Copley

      Jon Copley answered on 22 Jun 2010:

      Two things: (1) you learn from it (by finding out why it went wrong – sometimes that can tell you something that you didn’t know before) and, if it was just an accident, (2) you do it again, if you can.

      But that’s not always possible: if your experiment has to be done in a particular place in the deep ocean, for example, and it doesn’t work, you might not have the chance to get back there to try again in another expedition. So in my work, we often only get one shot at getting it right.

    • Photo: Daniel Richardson

      Daniel Richardson answered on 22 Jun 2010:

      Well, there is going wrong in the Peter Parker sense of a radioactive spider escaping and biting someone, but that’s probably not what you meant…

      If you don’t get the results that you hoped, if your theory has been disproved, then the experiment hasn’t gone wrong at all. It has given you the answer.

      Science is the practice of asking intelligent, well crafted, logically tight and creative questions to nature. Sometimes though, she just says ‘no’ in response. And you start over.

    • Photo: Louise Dash

      Louise Dash answered on 23 Jun 2010:

      It depends. In most cases you’d probably just get results that are not very good, or not reproducible, or no results at all! Then you just get frustrated and have to start again.

      Most scientific experiments don’t go catastrophically or dangerously wrong, but scientists try and have good safety procedures in place to deal with anything that happens unexpectedly!