Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Imponderables and the value of research

 When I was younger (meaning, like grade school younger, such a long time ago), I liked those books that were collections of quirky facts. But, as I grew older, I developed some slivers of critical thinking and realized some serious issues with those kind of books. Frankly, all too many of them don't give any citations, discuss any kind of research or give any context.

However, a few years back, I came across a series that actually did all those things, The Imponderables. 

The format is to take a question, allegedly sent in by readers  (It may have started life as a newspaper column), and then give a detailed answer, often citing experts. About twenty percent of each book is the bibliography 

Some of the questions were straight up science questions. How do things work? Other questions were engineering. Why do we something this way? Others are cultural or historical. Why do we act this way? Regardless, the question is answered in a thorough manner.

While the series is written in a breezy, casual style, there is still the fact that they are educational on a couple levels. First, there's the obvious, actual explaining stuff to the reader. But there is also being an example of how to research questions and find answers that hold up to scrutiny. Actually, by being so lowkey, it shows how anyone can do research if they put some effort in them.

Sadly, the series went defunct in 2006. Changes in society and technology has made many of both the Imponderables and their answers obsolete. However, a core message of the value of comprehensive research will never change.

No comments:

Post a Comment