“What is consciousness if you cannot poke it with your finger?”
During a moment of classroom epiphany in 2004, Erin, a precocious honors student at James Madison University, spontaneously put her finger on science’s most perplexing question and why science was loath to take the bait.
For all their erudition, scientists are not unlike the seven-year-old who stumbles upon a toad in her path and succumbs to the temptation to poke the creature to learn something about it in the process. Indeed, experimental physics is a formalized way of poking things and evaluating the responses. In the abstract, an experiment requires three essential ingredients: energy, object, and detector. Energy is directed at the object, some fraction strikes the detector, and something is gleaned about the object from the pattern of transmitted or returned energy. Consider a familiar example: in utero ultrasound of an unborn fetus.