This thread was prompted by a post from curbina in the Mizuno results thread.
I am an engineer, we are formed to use scientific knowledge to resolve practical problems in each particular discipline. We have to use tools and instruments for this so measuring things as accurately as posible is always a need, but we also deal with practical and budget limitations so we have to know how to measure things with practical enough accuracy. I deal with water mostly, not air, but the use of power consumption of a pump to estimate and also control flow rate is not the norm but often done, specially when the pump is going to be working in a steady regimen, the value can be perfectly accurate.
Of course you can do this kind of stuff when you know very well what you are doing.
I’m going to veer way off topic but I think is worth to give a recent real life example of how settled things can be completely wrong.
A few months ago in the country I live there was a huge public controversy, which has occurred in every other country when a similar roll out of so called smart grid meters begins. The classical argument is that smart meters over estimate power consumption. Government authorities and public electric utility companies quickly began a PR campaign to insure that the inaccuracy of smart meters was a myth and that the meters to be installed were fully compliant of international standards so there was nothing to fear in that regard.
But many of us consumers were already aware of a publication from a Dutch university team that found that smart meters were very capable of being more than significantly over or underestimating (depending on the type of sensor used in the meter, but the more common type consistently overestimates) power consumption of certain and very abundant types of light bulbs and other home appliances. This led to the establishment and funding of a 3 year multipartite international project to review and correct the current standards (started in 2018) by the European authority on these matters. So, our government officials are completely right that the meters comply with the international standards but is the standards that are wrong. This is an ongoing situation but our government already had to backpedal about the mandatory nature of the meter change (now you can refuse it) due to being completely unaware of this situation. If interested you can read about this European project here: https://www.euramet.org/resear…_project%5Baction%5D=show
The topic is a slightly more general version of what curbina discusses. There are many different things reported as "scientists say" or "known fact" and one thing I believe passionately is that public understanding of the uncertainty in such statements could and should be a lot better than it is.
Curbina shows an example where something that could reasonably be inferred from government commissioned research and technical development turns out to be surprisingly and badly wrong. Actually this is a particularly complex example of the problem.
We can also consider both sides: information confidently stated that turns out wrong, and information that is settled and clear, yet due to social media misinformation is popularly doubted.
Examples of confident and not actually correct: almost any dietary advice, a lot (not all) of news stories about medical efficacy of given drugs, EU advice to choose diesel cars on environmental grounds. In each case the reasons for the false statements are different, and worth understanding.
Examples of true but doubted: MMR vaccine is safe and very important for children's health, AGW exists and is mostly related to total fossil fuel CO2 emissions, Neo-darwinian evolutionary theories accurately and concisely explain all known evidence of species evolution (viewed as wrong by 50% of US population and an alarmingly high number of US legislators).
In looking at these different things we need to distinguish between direct consequences of simple fundamental physical laws: (e.g. momentum conservation makes inertia-less drives really unlikely) and empirical laws (anything in medicine without specific gene mapping an known biochemical pathways). High temperature superconductivity is an interesting grey area where going up to room temperature for real (bulk) superconductivity looks really difficult on fundamental grounds but can't be ruled out.
Where on this spectrum you put specific things can be a matter of judgement. The existence of these different levels of certainty is not. Thus that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow, assuming I'm at a non-polar latitude on Earth, 100%. That a given drug will work on a given person with specific symptoms, < 100%.