The Time Machine
How we cite our quotes:
As I stood there in the gathering dark I thought that in this simple explanation I had mastered the problem of the world – mastered the whole secret of these delicious people. [...] Very simple was my explanation, and plausible enough – as most wrong theories are! (4.32)
The Time Traveller says something like this a few times (check 4.20 for another). Rather than make him look foolish, we think this actually shows him to be a good scientist. To do science right, you've got to be cool with being wrong once in a while. In fact, being wrong may help you find your way to the right answer. Here the Time Traveller is showing us how science is done.
"Face this world. Learn its ways, watch it, be careful of too hasty guesses at its meaning. In the end you will find clues to it all." (5.14)
Here the Time Traveller is reminding himself to think through things scientifically – to collect data and then come up with a theory. (Sherlock Holmes has a famous line about this: "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.") Even the Time Traveller, who is a pretty good scientist most of the time, needs to remind himself that this is how a scientist acts. In other words, science is hard work – it doesn't come naturally.
. . . I discovered, from the flaring of my matches, that a steady current of air set down the shafts. Further, I threw a scrap of paper into the throat of one, and, instead of fluttering slowly down, it was at once sucked swiftly out of sight. (5.16)
The Time Traveller doesn't do a lot of what we would consider experimenting in the future, but here he does, in order to determine whether the wells are sucking air down.