From Newton to Darwin, Curie to Einstein, science has been built on empirical observation. And today, we rely on Big Data technology to analyse huge amounts of data - from ocean currents and the climate to changing populations.

It seems we know more than ever about the world.  But at the same time the very idea of neutral observation is under threat. In a postmodern world many argue that all observation is from a perspective, everything we see influenced by what we already think.               

Are we at sea in a world of competing models?  Or is it time to reassert the value of empirical observation, supported perhaps by machine learning and big data, as a means of choosing between incompatible theories?

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