In school we all learn the scientific method as 5 easy steps:
- Ask a question
- Formulate a testable hypothesis to answer said question
- Conduct an experiment and collect data pertaining to the hypothesis
- If the results are inconclusive or not tested hypothesis turns out not to be true, repeat steps 2 and 3 otherwise proceed
- Publish a paper on your results and become rich and famous
Just like the story high school teachers give about electron orbitals, this is not really completely true, especially for the really amazing discoveries that change the world. They go more like this:
- Someone with money asks you a question
- Formulate hypothesis or use hypothesis proposed by person who provides money from step 1
- Design and conduct experiment using provided money
- The results did not turn out as you expected. They're not just negative, they don't make any sense at all. Curse and stomp around since you assume your experimental apparatus is not working
- Find possible flaws in your apparatus and fix them
- Try again. The results still are not as you expected so curse and stomp around more.
- Clean bird poop out of your apparatus (or other last 'this couldn't be the problem but just in case' efforts).
- Try again. The results still do not make sense. Be confused and excited.
- Have someone else do the experiment too. Preferably as far away and independent as possible.
- Observe that they reproduce your results that make absolutely no sense.
- Publish your results.
- Wait 10 years. Observe the world change.
- Win a Nobel Prize