6th independent event confirmation

2020/11/12 Elhuyar Zientzia



Whenever possible, there must be independent confirmation of the facts or statements. That is, any other person must obtain the results obtained in an investigation using the same method that arises in the experimental phase of the investigation.

Why do we say “if possible”? Because the criterion of repeatability in all sciences is not met. In the most theoretical sciences, such as history, where phenomena cannot be repeated in a controlled or artificial way, it is not possible to reproduce historical facts through an experiment. In other sciences, on the other hand, especially in experimental sciences, repeatability will give credibility to inferred conclusions through experiment-based results.

Therefore, replicability is one of the basic characteristics to consolidate scientific advances. When research results are socialized following the last step of the scientific method, that is, when information is published, their credibility is guaranteed when experimentation to corroborate the research hypothesis is carried out by anyone else and reaches the same results and conclusions. Repeatability analysis can reinforce results and conclusions or detect unexpected errors and fraud. If it cannot be repeated it cannot be checked and therefore it is not credible.

In most cases we will not be able to repeat the tests or experiments necessary to verify the information that comes to us, so to contrast the information that comes to us in our day to day it is recommended to know the opinion of experts in the field. In fact, it is very useful to know the opinion of the scientific community to analyze the credibility of any information we receive; it will help us analyze whether the information we have in our hands is credible.

To better understand the above, let's look at some examples that will help us analyze the repetitivity of experiments with the elements we can have at home: have you received any challenge or challenge that went viral on social media? We will use an example of these challenges to clarify the concept of repeatability and see if what arises in that challenge is real: “The challenge of the chair” (#ChairChallenge).

This challenge was widespread through social networks, perhaps as a key to so much dissemination, for example, because only women could overcome it. Some of the headlines that were published in several newspapers and magazines on the challenge were: “Chair Challenge, the last viral challenge is not suitable for men” (El Mundo, 04/12/2019), “#Chairchallenge, the new viral challenge that only women can overcome” (El Periódico, 04/12/2019), “‘Chair Challenge’, the new viral challenge that only women can do” (Womallensh, 2019).

In addition, during those days numerous videos were screened on social networks, showing the ease with which women achieved the challenge and clumsiness of men.

According to headlines in the media and most of the videos published with the hashtag #ChairChallenge, it was clear that only women can reach this challenge, but would you consider that statement credible only by the news of the newspapers and the video stack that went viral? A critical thinker takes a chair and follows the instructions given to challenge, makes his own observation.

If you want to start practicing your critical thinking, the steps to take to try to challenge are:

  • Stand in front of a wall and back three steps (have the chair handy).

  • Tilt the body forward 90 degrees to touch the wall.

  • Without changing position, grab the chair with both hands and approach the chest.

  • Try to lift the chair without letting go.

To see the video of the explanations of the challenge click here.

If the sample that is used to make the challenge is small, that is, if the group of people trying to complete the challenge is small, it is very possible that the same result that was viralized is repeated and that the information of newspaper headlines and videos is accepted. Despite the results that coincide with the information disseminated, a critical thinker would question the gender hypothesis and try to raise and test a new hypothesis: Is it possible that success to complete the challenge is based on the morphological characteristics of people?

To prove the above question, the sample must be larger and more heterogeneous, that is, we have to take many people with different physiognomic characteristics. Thus, you will find that the challenge has nothing to do with gender, since the ability to meet the challenge depends on the morphological and anthropometric characteristics of each person.

Therefore, it is a lie that only women are able to challenge, since men with specific morphological characteristics are also able to do so. There will also be women who by their morphology and anthropometric characteristics are not able to complete the challenge. The general morphological characteristics of the female and male bodies make women more able to challenge than men, but not because they are women or men, so the information provided in the headline is not correct.

Another similar example: Based on a NASA message, the broom challenge (#Broomstick Challenge) is another challenge that was widely opened on social media. In mid-March 2020, when we were quarantined at home because of the pandemic created by covid-19, the broom challenge was strongly reversed in many countries. The challenge does not hide great secrets: the goal is to stand a broom and keep it standing without anyone reaching or support. Numerous videos and photographs were shared on social networks as a sign of the viral challenge overcome. The message that was spread on social media to present the challenge was as follows:

“Today is, according to #NASA, the only day on which a broom remains unaided by the tilt of the earth’s axis, every 3,500 years” (Twitter, @karenmercadop, 17/03/2020)

But it was not the first time this message was broadcast on social media. A similar message posted above is:

“Well, NASA said today was the only day a broom would stand without help, due to the gravitational pull... At first I did not believe it, but my God!” (Twitter, @Mikaylaaaaa, 10/02/2020)

The previous messages that were viralized to raise the challenge had some particularities: on the one hand, that the possibility of completing the challenge is limited to a specific day (a different day in both messages) and that it could not be repeated until 3,500 years. On the other hand, the mention of NASA suggests that the origin of the claim would be in the space organization.

What would a critical thinker do when receiving one of the above messages? It's clear, first it's about taking a broom and standing it up. Imagine that, as in the photos and videos that were disseminated on social networks with the hashtag #Broomstick Challenge, manages to put the broom standing and keep it standing without any help. Would you believe the challenge? No, I wouldn't believe it, because only one of the claims posed by the challenge is confirmed: on that specific day the broom stands. To ensure the credibility of the statement, we will try to investigate the issue and keep the broom standing another day. Once this is done, I would observe that what is said in the messages is false, since any day you can stand the broom and keep it standing. Depending on the type of broom, the challenge will be more or less easy, but it has nothing to do with the Earth's axis tilt or Earth's gravity.

As for the origin of the information, it is believed that NASA said that the challenge can only be done that day, but there is no indication of it. Therefore, the message that was spread was an amen. The messages related to the challenge spread so much that NASA itself published a bird that belies the claims raised in the challenge. The message posted by NASA in response to the challenge that went viral on February 10, 2020 with the hashtag #Broomstick Challenge said:

“Astronaut Alvin Drew and scientist Sarah Noble have responded to the #Broomstick Challenge and have shown that basic physics works every day of the year, not just on February 10.”

These examples highlight the importance of independent confirmation of facts in the development of critical thinking. Whenever possible, it is advisable that the confirmation of the facts be made by oneself, but in order for the results of this experimentation to be satisfactory it is essential that the scientific community know its opinion about it.


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