2022 - June
Workings of science: Trust in science and mathematics
by Jeffrey Johnson, Andrew Odlyzko
Concerns about the trustworthiness of science are not confined to fringe groups that reject science entirely. There is substantial unease even among researchers about the reliability of peer review and the reproducibility crisis---where scientific results are not or cannot be tested by replication. Here the authors point out that such worries even apply to mathematics---for many the language of science. This is largely caused by the growing complexity of our knowledge base, where results are more complicated and investigators sometimes have to rely on the results of others that they do not fully understand. This means, as with the sciences, mathematical discoveries increasingly have to be treated as not absolutely reliable, but as part of a process of searching for the truth, and even what it means for something to true.
Workings of science: Debunked software theories
by Walter Tichy
Falsifiability is a cornerstone of science. It states that scientific claims---propositions, hypotheses, theories---must be testable by experiment. A scientific claim is falsified if an empirical test contradicts it; if a claim withstands repeated attempts at falsification, it is accepted as fact. This article discusses three examples of falsified theories about software. They address the reliability of multi-version programs, the prediction of program bugs by means of software metrics, and the advantages of software models (UML). These examples demonstrate how falsifiability can eliminate incorrect theories and help reorient research and practice.