Tag Archives: hypothesis

More mystery tubes

My mystery tube blog post seems to have inspired a lot of people. How awesome! This is what my parents sent me:

And my friend Kristin Richter took the whole thing to the next level: She brought the mystery tube in to work and tested it on colleagues! And when we were discussing the mystery tube in the context of a possible workshop we wanted to run, she came up with a great context.

— spoiler alert – don’t continue reading if you haven’t figured out how the mystery tube works! —

So the thing is: In all instructions the two threads inside the tube are connected with a ring through which they are both fed. When I built my own mystery tube, I was too lazy and to cheap to put a ring inside a mystery tube where it a) wasn’t visible and b) not even necessary. My solution was instead to just cross the two threads and the result is exactly the same. So Kristin pointed out that this is actually a really cool feature of the mystery tubes when we use them to model a model. A model might reproduce the behavior of a system perfectly (like my cheap mystery tube reproduces all the functionalities of a “real” mystery tube with a ring inside), yet we do not know if it does reproduce reality for the right reasons. New scenarios might develop – for example if we shook the mystery tubes, one might make a noise and the other one might not – but still. What if one ring was made out of a material that did not make a sound when hitting the walls of the tube? We’ll never know whether there is a “ring” in the real world or not.

Screen shot 2015-06-18 at 9.48.24 AM

Mystery tube

Did the mystery tubes get even more awesome now or what? :-)

Developing a hypothesis: Mystery tubes

Finally I know why I’ve been collecting empty toilet paper and kitchen paper rolls for ages: To build mystery tubes!


Mystery tube

I only built a prototype, but it works just fine.

So here is what you do with it:

And now it’s your turn. How does the mystery tube work?

I can’t wait to use mystery tubes to introduce students to the scientific method. Obviously I would make sure to tape off the open ends of the roll so nobody can have a peek inside! The students can play with the tube and then start developing hypotheses on how the mystery tube works. Ideally, I would bring all kinds of materials for them to build their own tubes to test their hypotheses.

For this exercises to be as close to real-life science as possible, I think it is important to never reveal the solution and not have them check it out, either. Building a model and not knowing whether it is an exact replica of the real world or if it only worked fine for all cases we tried it on, but would break down on a different case, is part of the game after all!

P.S.: I got the idea here.

P.P.S.: Kristin, what do you think?