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Nature of Science

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You Can't Prove It!

You Can't Prove It

Credit: Laura Guerin
Source: CK-12 Foundation
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The world is an exciting and complicated place with many ideas and beliefs.  The discipline of science is a framework that allows us to better understand the world around us. 

Why It Matters

  • There are a lot of challenges in the world, including limitations in energy, food, and other natural resources.  Thankfully, there are many professions dedicated to developing solutions to address these complicated problems.  Scientists are people who try to understand the world around them by first observing and then trying to propose explanations for why certain systems work the way they do.  
  • The TED conference (Technology, Engineering, and Design conference) is an annual event where scientists from many different fields gather to share their new observations and discoveries. Most of the presentations can be watched at TED.com
  • Credit: Erik Charlton
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/erikcharlton/3336629367/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Richard Garriott talks about what it's like to be a civilian tourist in space [Figure2]

     

  • The explanations are simply proposals and are sometimes called hypotheses.  These hypotheses are just ideas until someone tries to verify them via experimentation.  
  • The data obtained from experiments can help support the hypotheses (explanations for the observations); however, hypotheses cannot be proven with experiments.  Ultimately, they can only be found to be consistent with all known experiments.
  • For another explanation of science, watch the following video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDQ8ggroeE4

Can You Apply It? 

With the links below, learn more about science and scientific thinking. Then answer the following questions.

The following scenario applies to the following questions: At home, you cook pizza in the oven on aluminum foil at a temperature of 200 °C (~400 °F).  You notice that after removing the pizza and foil from the oven, the pizza stays hot for a long time (perhaps ~15 minutes); however, the aluminum foil cools more quickly.  You may have just made a fundamental observation about the universe!

  1. Propose some questions based on the above observations.
  2. If you were going to explore your questions from above, what sort of measurements would you have to make?
  3. The questions you proposed above may be great questions but they may not be testable hypotheses related to cause and effect.  Consider this testable hypothesis: "If my pizza and my aluminum foil had the same mass they would cool down at the same rate."  How would you design an experiment that tests this hypothesis?
  4. If you were able to collect data that supported your hypothesis, would that make it true?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Laura Guerin; Source: CK-12 Foundation; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Erik Charlton; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/erikcharlton/3336629367/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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