Robert Boyle And The Scientific Method

How do we know something is true? In grade school, you may remember being taught a process by which an observation elicits a question, from which a hypothesis can be derived, which leads to a prediction that can be tested, and proven…or not) These steps are commonly known as the Scientific Method, and they’ve been successfully used for thousands of years, by such legendary people of science as Aristotle (384 – 322 BC,) Roger Bacon (1219 – 1292,) Johannes Kepler (1571-1630,) Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and right up to today’s scientists who run the CERN Large Hadron Collider.  The collider is the largest machine in the world, and its very purpose is the testing and proving (or not) of hypotheses based on questions that come from observations (often made in the LHC itself) in ongoing efforts to answer amazingly complex questions regarding space, time, quantum mechanics, and general relativity.

The Scientific Method is actually the reason (more on this in a minute) for the name of a fundamental law of physics: Boyle’s Law.  It states:

“For a fixed amount of an ideal gas kept at fixed temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional.”

And can be mathematically represented:

PV=k, where:

  • P = is the pressure of a gas
  • V = is the volume of that gas, and
  • k = is a constant

So, if “k” is held constant, no matter how pressure changes, volume will change in inverse proportion.  Or, if volume changes, pressure will change in inverse proportion.  In other words, when one goes up, the other goes down.  It’s also quite useful in another formulaic representation, which allows us to calculate the resultant volume (or pressure,) assuming the initial volume & pressure and resultant pressure (or volume) is known:

P1V1=P2V2, where:

  • P1  and P2 are the initial, and resultant, pressures (respectively) and
  • V1  and V2 are the initial, and resultant, volumes (respectively)

This is in fact, what happens when compressed air is generated, so this formula is instrumental in many aspects of air system design, such as determining compressor output, reservoir storage, pneumatic cylinder performance, etc.

Back to the reason it’s called “Boyle’s Law” – it’s not because he discovered this particular phenomenon.  See, in April of 1661, two of Robert Boyle’s contemporaries, Richard Towneley and Henry Power, actually discovered the relationship between the pressure and volume of a gas when they took a barometer up & down a large hill with them.  Richard Towneley discussed his finding with Robert Boyle, who was sufficiently intrigued to perform the formal experiments based on what he called “Mr Towneley’s hypothesis.”  So, for completing the steps of Scientific Method on this phenomenon – going from hypothesis to law –  students, scientists, and engineers remember Robert Boyle.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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IMGP6394 image courtesy of Matt Buck, Creative Commons License

Actually Being Happy During the Holidays…..and Beyond

I thought I would depart from my usual application citation as I have just read a great article by author Jeff Haden, who writes for Inc. Magazine. I follow Jeff’s writing on LinkedIn. Instead of just Tweeting about his article, I was inspired to write about the content a bit and also offer his article up for your enjoyment as well.

The name of the article is, “10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Incredibly Happy”.

I’ll give a quick run-down of the list here. Jeff goes into great detail on each point and provides a ton of links to further his case for each point.

  1. Exercise
  2. Get good and more sleep
  3. Spend more time with friends and family
  4. Get outside, preferably in a rural setting
  5. Help others
  6. Smile
  7. Plan a trip
  8. Meditate
  9. Move closer to work
  10. Practice Gratitude

He also offers an 11th point, getting older; which I’m sure we will all have to do sooner or later so not much choice on that one.

Strangely, eating more vegetables was not on the list. Sorry mom, you must have been wrong.

What struck me about his list was that there are at least 4 or 5 of these things that I keep meaning to do, but never seem to take the time to explore myself. They are all great ideas that, when practiced, not only have the result of making you a happier person, but also bring you back to your “center” and give you a sense that you have many important, intangible things in this world that money cannot buy.

It is a given that this time of year is full of top ten lists, mostly about pop culture garbage. It is ideas as expressed in Jeff’s article that convey the real and heartfelt things that really matter in this life. Practice being grateful for the things you have instead of wanting the things you don’t have. And SMILE!  My wife reminds me of this all the time. You can’t help but have a better feeling if you truly put some effort into it.

It is easy to dismiss such things as psycho-babel and not invest in yourself in such ways. But since these methods were scientifically proven, surely they must be given some rational credit. If you need an excuse, just say you read it on the internet so it must be true!

In all seriousness, I wish all our readers a Happy Holiday Season and hope that all of you can find true happiness in your life.

Neal Raker, Application Engineer
nealraker@exair.com