|How does Science work?|
This is an important question to ask! I think
everyone should learn how science works. First,
let's go over why we do science.
Science is about finding out more about how the
world works. There is so much to find out that
the best way to do this is to pool our
knowledge. The more you know, the farther you
can find out new things!
When someone finds out something new, they
write it down (usually in a science journal) so
that everyone else can learn it too. Here's the
hard part: what if that person made a
mistake? We want to know if what they wrote is
actually how the world works.
Scientists came up with a way to prevent a lot of
mistakes. It's called the scientific
method, and any science that anyone does uses
it. Here's how it works.
Let's say you're finding out something new about
how the world works. You start by making a
hypothesis, a guess about what you will
find. Then you test your hypothesis,
usually by running an experiment.
Sometimes, the result of your experiment will
agree with your hypothesis. Other times, the
result of your experiment will give you a reason
to pick a different, better hypothesis and you
start over. Either way, eventually you will get a
result that agrees with your newest
hypothesis. Now, when you write down what you
found out, you can confidently tell everyone why
you think your hypothesis is correct.
If you did a good job, other scientists will
add your discovery to their pool of knowledge.
They might even tell other people about it, so
that everyone can find out what you did!
Science is a method of learning about nature
that consists of looking at reality, coming up
with ideas of how reality works, figuring out what
you would see but haven't yet if your idea were
true, and then testing your idea by seeing if what
you thought you would see does happen. The
answer that you get then becomes the starting
point for the next step, and it continues in a
People educated in Greek have come up with long
names for this process, but it's pretty simple.
The long names and their meanings are these:
Observation - something you notice about nature
Hypothesis - your idea on how nature works
that you came up with based on what you saw
Prediction - what you think you should see,
if your idea (hypothesis) is right
Experiment - the test you do to find out if
you see what you thought you would
The cycle as it is normally drawn goes:
Observation -> Hypothesis -> Prediction ->
Experiment -> new Observation -> New Hypothesis ->
(and so on)
I think people need to know more about how science
works. Then maybe they will be better at thinking
about things, and they won't believe so many
things that are silly. But I can't think of any
examples of the silly things now.
Science works in different ways. One way is
called the Scientific Method. We all use
the Scientific Method sometimes. For example, you
want to know if you need to wear a jacket to
school, or if it's warm enough to go without a
jacket. That would be your Question. You
could go outside and see how cold it is, or you
could look at a thermometer outside your window.
Those would be your Experiments. With the
Results from your experiments, you could
decide whether or not to wear a jacket.
So the Scientific Method is like this:
1. Ask a Question
2. Make a Hypothesis - that's a Guess about the
answer to your question.
3. Plan some Experiments to test your Hypothesis
and do the Experiments.
4. Look at the Results of your Experiments and
see if they agree with your Hypothesis - your Guess.
5. Make some Conclusions about how good your
Guess is and decide if you know the answer to your
Question or if you need a new Guess and new
Sometimes scientists find something interesting
and then they try to understand it. Once I had a
student whose Guess about her Question was wrong,
but she said, "There's something I don't
understand here," and she asked a new Question and
made a new Guess - a new Hypothesis - and got new
Results and discovered something interesting
about how microbes change shape when they don't
have enough food!
Once I had an interesting idea when I wasn't
even thinking about science - I was looking at the
mineral mica, and I thought it would be a
good place for the first living things to come
from. I've been working on that idea for almost 9
yrs now! That's an example of having a Hypothesis
- a Guess - before I even asked a question.
Science is just a way to find out how things
work, and whether things are true. We do this
by coming up with an idea of how we think
something works (we call this a
hypothesis), and a test to see whether our
idea is correct (we call this an
experiment). Any good hypothesis must be
able to be tested, and must be able to be
proven false, because otherwise how would you
know whether or not it's true?
Another important part about science is that
it can be checked and tried by anyone else.
Whenever scientists report their hypotheses and
experiments to each other, they describe the
entire experiment. This is so that if there's
something really controversial, other scientists
can perform the same experiment to see whether
they get the same results. If multiple people
can't get the same result, it's usually a sign
that something more complicated is happening, and
it needs more study.
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