www.whyville.net Jul 3, 2005 Weekly Issue

Times Writer

Searching for a Cure

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Skimming the BBS, I read,

"Wearing a scarf helped me get rid of the Why-Pox but I also took a vial. So taking a vial and wearing a scarf helped me get rid of Why-Pox."

Wow! A surefire solution to Why-Pox!

Or is it?

Sounds like someone did an experiment and came to this conclusion. But there is a problem with her scientific process.

How does she know that it was the combination of vial and scarf that cured her Why-Pox? What if it was just the vial? Or just the scarf? Or maybe the Pox would have gone away anyway if she even if she hadn't done anything?

When you conduct an experiment, you can only test one variable at a time. In this person's experiment, a variable would be a scarf or a Why-Pox vial. If you test both at once, you can't be sure which one was responsible for the change, or if it was the combination of both.

Also, you need to have what is called a control. That is, you need to try out at least one version of your experiment without any variables. See what happens if you don't use a vial OR a scarf. Will the Why-Pox go away in the same amount of time? Or more? Or less?

So if we really want to solve Why-Pox, we need to work together! One person tries a scarf, one person tries a vial, one person tries both, one tries neither. Or better yet, many people try a scarf, many try a vial, many try both, and many try neither. That's how real scientific studies are conducted.

And there's a million other things to test out... taking two vials, or three... taking them at different stages of the Pox... and on and on.

Who wants to try it?


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