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Inductive Reasoning from Patterns

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The Science of Induction

Credit: U.S. Navy
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/56594044@N06/7773528446
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

How do doctors know what treatments will work on patients? How do we know that cigarettes cause lung cancer, and that calcium supplements can prevent broken hips? Scientists can’t push grandmas down the stairs to see who ends up with a broken hip. Instead, they look at patterns to determine how our behaviors affect our health.

35 Years and 238,000 Nurses

Medical researchers need to look at big groups of people so that they can spot patterns. After researchers find a pattern, they use induction to recommend treatments. Since 1976, the Harvard Nurses' Health Study has tracked the lifestyles, health, and habits of 238,000 American nurses. The study has given us information about diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

Credit: Ellen Meiselman
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ellenm1/8944182090/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Medicine isn’t the only area in which scientists must study patterns and use induction. Naturalists observe the habits and movements of animals. They can use this information to figure out life cycles and migration patterns. By studying how sandhill cranes, like the father in the image above, teach their young to migrate, naturalists have figured out how to raise endangered whooping cranes.

See for yourself: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/animals-news/whooping-cranes-wcvin

Explore More

Check out the link below to find out how induction figured into the Wright brothers' invention process.

http://wright.nasa.gov/overview.htm

How did the Wright brothers use induction when they designed their airplane?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: U.S. Navy; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/56594044@N06/7773528446; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Ellen Meiselman; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ellenm1/8944182090/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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