Orzel (Physics/Union Coll.; How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog, 2012, etc.) explains that we all think like scientists, at least some of the time; we just may not know it.
What is science? Most of all, writes the author, it is a process. Its many products may be bewildering, but its process is anything but inscrutable (“not some incidental offshoot of more general human activity; it’s the very thing that makes us who we are”). In writing that is welcoming but not overly bouncy, persuasive in a careful way but also enticing, Orzel reveals the “process of looking at the world, figuring out how things work, testing that knowledge, and sharing it with others.” In the first part of the book, the author looks for patterns. He uses the pleasures of collecting things as a way of polishing his awareness of the importance of close observation. The next step—using your experiences in life, the frame of what you know—allows you to fashion your observations into a model, which is not just a story as to why something happened, but a source of optimism, as well, since it provides a real notion that the world is comprehensible. With an easy hand, Orzel ties together card games with communicating in the laboratory; playing sports and learning how to test and refine; the details of some hard science—Rutherford’s gold foil, Cavendish’s lamps and magnets—and entertaining stories that disclose the process that leads from observation to colorful narrative. There will be false leads, dead ends and red herrings, but the beauty is in the chase and in the pleasing fact that the practice of science is open to all races, genders and persuasions.
Orzel’s point is well-taken: Like breathing, we are engaging in the scientific process much of the time, even if we don’t know it.