Can you learn to do science by watching?

Can you learn to do science by watching scientists? I do not know, but Natural History magazine this month ran a short article Of moonwalks and tablecloths, which describes experiments in which people watched videos of other people performing complex activities. The purpose of the experiment was to assess whether people who watched the videos might overestimate their own abilities to perform the complex activities. In particular, the researchers, Michael Kardas and Ed O’Brien of the University of Chicago business school, allowed participants to view a person snatching a tablecloth from under a set of dishes. Those who watched the video 20 times were more confident that they could perform the trick than were those who watched it once.

In other experiments, according to Natural History, people were actually tested on how well they could perform certain (presumably less dangerous) activities, such as throwing darts and tracing an image viewed through a mirror. Those who watched a video several times did not perform better than those who watched it once.

I do not want to belabor this, but I think we may gain insight into the behavior of some of our trolls: They think that if they can watch enough science or read enough science, then suddenly they can understand science or write about science. What they write on this blog gives the lie to that contention.