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Scientific Thinking in the Kitchen: Banana Chips

K. P. Mohanan, Tara Mohanan

This dialogue is between a nine-year old girl (MM), her mother (TM) and her father (KPM). It is triggered by questions on the crispness of the banana chips they were having as a post-breakfast snack. The dialogue involves intriguing issues in the philosophy of science: Do the three of them have the same meaning for the English word ‘crisp’? If they cannot agree on whether a particular chip is crisp or not crisp, the claim that the chips in the packet are crisp is not falsifiable. Do they have the same sensory experience (qualia) of crispness? If they do not have the same sensory experience, then the observational report is incommensurable. Assuming that they have the same meanings and the same sensory experience, does the packet of banana chips have both crisp and non-crisp chips? Is it possible to predict whether or not a chip is crisp, on the basis of some other property? That is, does crispness have a correlation with some other property? In the context of science, what does the term ‘predict’ mean? Finally, how do we construct a theory of crispness in banana chips?

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