What Is Science?
Science – experimental science in particular – is like a game of 20 questions we play with Mother Nature. We have a question like “Am I more likely to catch fish on rainy days than on clear days (or does it make a difference)?” Maybe no human being knows the answer, but Mother Nature does.
Only she isn’t going to just tell us the answer straight up – she doesn’t speak English, after all. We have to be more clever in how we get the answers from her.
The Scientific Method
One thing we can do is make a guess (form a hypothesis), and then submit the guess to her (run an experiment). For example, for the question about when you are likely to catch more fish, we might run an experiment like this: go to the same exact fishing spot each day for 10 clear days and 10 rainy days, always arriving and leaving at the same time of day, always using the same rod and tackle, and always using the same bait. (We call this “controlling” for location, time of day, total fishing time, equipment, and bait, and we do it to make sure that it’s the weather and not some other factor like the particular bait we use that is causing any differences in how many fish we catch each day.)
The data we get from the experiment (the number of fish we catch on 10 clear days and 10 rainy days) is Mother Nature’s answer to one of our questions, and it might range from “yes” to “probably yes” to “maybe” to “probably no” to “no” to “no comment.” (Also: we usually have to analyze the raw data in some way to find out what her answer actually is.) Through playing this game of 20 questions with Mother Nature and pulling together all of the clues we get from our experiments we can get more precise and certain answers to our questions over time.
21st Century Science Education: Real Science in a Virtual World
The best (and most fun) way of really learning science is by doing real experiments like the 20-day fishing experiment described above. But real experiments like this one often require a lot of money and time, and so we can’t really do that for every kid.
Or can we? The video shows an example of doing real science in the virtual world of Minecraft a lot faster and less expensively than we could in the real world - and without having to get wet!
File this under “things I wish they had when we were in school.”
Science Can Surprise Us!
Swifty7777 and I have run the experiment once (collecting 20 Minecraft days’ worth of data between the two of us – less than an hour of real time) – and, as often happens in science, we were surprised by what we found. In fact, our results seem to contradict what the Minecraft wiki says is true - they indicate you should catch about 20% more fish in the rain than on a clear day. (Watch the video for details on what we found.)
Who is right – us or the Minecraft wiki?
Your Turn! Try the Experiment Yourself
You can help us figure it out: replicate our experiment (that means run it again the same way – just like real scientists do!) and see if you get the same results.
Besides, if you really want to learn science, you have to do more than watch videos of other people doing it - you have to get in there and work through it yourself. We've provided an Excel spreadsheet for you to download here that makes it easy for you to do that.
If you email your filled out spreadsheet to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Minecraft Fishing Experiment #1”, we’ll post your results so people can compare them to ours.
Epic_MC_Player and Swifty7777
// The Minecraft Scientists
Instructions for running the experiment yourself are here (same as link above).
If you liked this "learning with Minecraft" video, you might also like these:
Minecraft Math #1: Numbers - Even, Odd, Prime & Square Root
Minecraft Math #2: Addition, Multiplication & Commutativity