I Don’t Know

This is the most valuable phrase we have as skeptics: “I don’t know”. This short, three-word sentence is a starting point for everything. Curiosity, ingenuity and solutions start with those three words.

What are those sparkly things in the sky at night?

Why did that apple bonk me on the head?

What happens when I sail my ship this direction for a really long time?

Questions like these have lead to some of the greatest scientific discoveries in human history.

In our current era, the questions are more complex: “What happens if I crack open an atom?”, “Oh crap! What ARE all these tiny particles that were in there and how do they work?” and “Can we make an exact duplicate of this sheep?”

The second part of I don’t know is Let’s find out.

Asking questions gets things rolling. Without the initial question, nothing happens. That questioning, however, needs to be followed up with action. Look for the answers. Run your own experiment. For months now I have been considering running my own experiment based on the adage “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”.

Really? I mean, sure honey is a food source for flies but feeding them isn’t really catching them, is it? But what’s to say that a sip of vinegar won’t kill them and then you’ve caught your fly. I still have to work out the parameters. I’m thinking of taking three fish tanks with fine mesh screen covers. One has water and that’s the control. One has vinegar and one has honey (in equal amounts of course). Then actually buying flies and releasing about 30 into each tank.

The issue is that I haven’t exactly figured out what constitutes “catching” a fly. Is a dead fly caught or did it just die? Flypaper catches flies but it also kills them because of the chemical content.

I’d appreciate any input on the subject of what constitutes “caught”. Should I change the experiment and just wait for wild flies to show up? If I do that I still have the whole “caught” issue to deal with.

See? This is where “I don’t know” comes into play. I have questions and I’m seeking answers. That’s what being a skeptic is all about.



  1. MaryLynne said,

    May 1, 2010 at 7:30 am

    What about setting up three jars with water, vinegar and honey, and and cones of paper with a small opening at the tip pointing down into the jars? The flies are lured down into the jar but can’t get out because they crawl up the wall of the jar and can’t figure out how to get out the small hole in the middle of the steep sloping sides. That’s how we catch fruit flies in my kitchen, but we use vinegar or fruit.

    I’m inspired by this, because I also am very curious about a lot that I had just previously accepted, but my idea was to look up info, looking for authoritative sources and valid research. I hadn’t thought of figuring it out for myself when I can!

    • May 2, 2010 at 3:23 pm

      That’s an excellent idea about the paper cones! Thanks for the help. Now I can start looking at a time fram for running the experiment.

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