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Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: A Reintroduction to Scientific Fundamentals

With the fresh resurrection of this blog, we at the Olympic Project would like to ring in the New Year with some something very old, but very important: a series of essays reiterating the fundamental building blocks of biology, zoology, and the scientific and academic process in general, all reduced down to a (hopefully) entertaining and bigfoot relevant discussion that will have you fondly reminiscing about the smell of that dead dissected cat from 10th grade biology class.

“Hey, I came here because I want answers about that 800 pound gorilla I saw in the woods, not reenact an episode of ‘Community’ with you nerds,” you say. Fair enough, but hear me out. The Olympic Project believes that we are engaged in the avocational (read: non-professional hobbyist) study of a zoological entity, governed by the same laws of biology, physics, and laws of nature that applied to every organism from the first single celled prokaryote to Tyrannosaurus Rex, and beyond. If you are here reading this blog, chances are you do too. And if not, hopefully our relentless charm may convince you otherwise. If you want to be a citizen-scientist, you need to have a solid understanding of all the science that is applicable to your chosen topic of study. This is not just to be pedantic or condescending; the scientific and academic process is by now hundreds of years old, and like life on earth itself it has survived this long through refinement and iteration because it has proven itself to be the most consistent method to test, verify, and validate in the most unbiased way possible the numerous and varied discoveries and conclusions made by fallible, imperfect human actors. Of course, it is not a perfect process, especially not when administered and executed by flawed mortals such as ourselves, but, as Winston Churchill once remarked on the floor of the House of Commons in 1947, “democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

If you truly want to contribute to the study of this longstanding but fascinating mystery, the single most significant step you can take right now is to add yourself to the small, but hopefully growing population of academically minded citizen-scientists who bring the fullest toolbox of analytical and intellectual weapons to bear on this most difficult and elusive problem. This doesn’t require additional letters behind your name and titles hanging on your wall. It just requires curiosity, intellectual discipline, and hopefully, a rant here and there from yours truly now and again to help things along. Our field of study has long been written off as “unscientific hogwash” by most academics and professionals, and rightly so; we as amateur researchers by and large do not speak the same language that every field of science and engineering implicitly understand and hold to be self evident when probing for answers about unsolved mysteries. The long road to recognition and acknowledgement starts here, one person at a time, until a critical mass of backwoods professors that can perform the same functions that a normal self-critiquing peer-reviewed community of academics is reached. In laymen’s terms, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and when you’re doing citizen science, joining ’em isn’t such a bad thing.

Our quarry is but a stitch in the vast web of life encompassing everything that lives and has ever lived. To have a hope of understanding what you seek, you must first understand what has already been found. Not even about Sasquatch, mind you, but about all living things. To put it bluntly, if you’re looking for bigfoot, don’t reinvent the wheel. Our objective should be to explain a single unexplained phenomenon with only explained theories and mechanisms, basically embodying the principle of Occam’s Razor that pretty much all science and engineering abide by: the simplest explanation is usually also the most plausible one. It ain’t rocket science, but even if it were, you’d start with mastering the fundamentals: calculus, classical physics, fluid dynamics, chemistry, etc. Attempting to invent an entirely new set of methods and laws to study a new species is a bit like the guy dancing around the hardware store insisting he invented a new way to measure 2x4s: you’d probably look at him a bit funny too.

Over the next few articles we will be revisiting these most important scientific fundamentals, some of which may be familiar, some of which may be new, and some of which may be familiar concepts presented in completely new and unexpected ways. We hope that this information will help you grow not just as a Sasquatch researcher, but as a consumer and practitioner of science in general. And hey, even if you think this whole bigfoot thing is a load of crap, you’ll probably learn something interesting about your dog, so you might as well stick around.


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