Hypothesis Feedback

By today, all but a few of you have consulted with me on a plan to develop your Hypotheses to reveal the most intriguing research questions you can imagine.

You’re smart people and good students. You’re in class because you want to challenge yourself and learn to do something new, or differently, or better. So, here’s your chance. The “fallback topics” and themes you’ve written about in other classes aren’t as close to the top of the grade scale in this class as they may have been.

Let’s take far-fetched example of a way to turn an “obvious answer” into something more intriguing.

  • In September, 2020, forest fires were raging through California, clearly fueled by environmental conditions worsened by the warming global climate, burning a million acres of timerberland incredibly quickly.
  • The president suggested that the cause of the devastation was the failure of the State of California to “sweep the forest floor” clear of leaves and fallen branches that, as he described it, “explode like matchsticks.”
  • Any sensible person who contemplates the prospect of sending crews into a million acres of forest with leaf blowers recognizes the president’s solution as the ravings of a madman.
  • But . . . what if there’s a point to this insanity?
  • What if, every mile or so (you name the distance), a broad band of woodland was clearcut and the ground kept clear, creating a line that a raging fire would not cross.
  • The condition of the forest floor for that mile (5 miles?) would be irrelevant.
  • Fires that used to rage for 5 miles and then keep going another 10, and another 10, would burn for 5 miles and then stop.

Do you see what I mean? Find your topic. Scan the prevailing opinions. Reject them. Invent a new one that doesn’t at first seem to have much merit. And then bear down on that not-obvious, non-intuitive premise to see what’s there.

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