Girl Scouts can now earn badges in space sciences like astronomy and the search for ET

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Not sure if this is just pedantry speaking, but now that the thought has entered my head I’m more and more curious: Is the search for extra-terrestrial life technically science?

Does open-ended “looking for something” meet the whole testable-hypothesis approach?

It’s basically the search for liquid water on exoplanets or Mars.


Science isn’t just about having a testable hypothesis. There is an exploratory phase when you don’t even know if you’re asking the right questions. Empiricism is broader and deeper than what we usually call the “scientific method” but an essential component of it.

To put it another way: hypotheses are complex, and the number of possible hypotheses is huge, so from an information-theoretic or epistemological perspective, “identifying a reasonably sized set of hypothesis that includes the correct one” actually usually requires a lot more data than “identifying which of a set of hypotheses is probably right.”


So are paleontologists just playing in the dirt? Are physicists working with colliders just smashing (very small) rocks? Are marine biologists exploring and documenting the deepest trenches just playing with aquatic drones.

Some scientists spend their time working on the theoretical, some on testing theories and some on data collection. All fill an important piece of the process.


They weren’t looking at the skies before?

Well, badges are cool too.

And to skywatchers everywhere, whatever your reason:


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