Exploring Ideas

How to & why… Blogging, graphics, ideas & posts to support other blogs.

Reference: What is Science? from the Teach Them Science Blog

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When looking at a post from a class, a question came to mind. What is science? Here is an attempt to explain…

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Science definition:

The systematic study of man and his environment based on the deductions and inferences which can be made, and the general laws which can be formulated, from reproducible observations and measurements of events and paramenters so obtained.

(The Concise Macquarie Dictionary, Macquarie University, 1982 ISBN:  0 86824 109 1)

The word “science” comes from Latin “scientia” and means knowledge. Scientists search for knowledge so they can better understand and explain the world and universe around us. Their work involves ideas, hypotheses and theories. I think of these as three levels of thinking about science and other subjects.

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What does this mean?

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There seems to be confusion in the general population between “theory” and “idea”. Have you heard someone say “My theory is…” when all they really have is an idea? Many in the general public seem to think a theory is an unproven idea so when they hear scientists discussing theories they believe scientists are discussing ideas.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

I think there are three levels of thought in this process…

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1. Ideas are thoughts, impressions, notions, opinions, beliefs, views or intentions. They don’t need proof nor do they need to be repeatable or testable by others. They are simply what we have in mind.

2. From our ideas, an hypothesis can be born. An hypothesis is an idea, often based on experience or initial results, which might lead a theory. It’s an attempt to explain what is observed but hasn’t yet been repeatedly checked or had additional supporting research.

3. “A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. If enough evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, it moves to the next step—known as a theory—in the scientific method and becomes accepted as a valid explanation of a phenomenon.” (Source: “What is a scientific theory?“) That is, hypotheses only become theories after they have been tested many times and have supporting evidence.

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There are many examples of ideas or hypotheses masquerading as theories so we must look at what is presented to us and decide whether it is simply an idea or possibly an hypothesis and not a theory.

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Look at the below statements and decide whether each is an idea, hypothesis or theory. Remember, hypotheses try to explain what is seen while theories have been repeatedly tested by scientists.

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1. The different species of life have evolved over a long period of time.

2. If everyone on one side of the Earth were to jump up and down at the same time they can change the orbit of Earth around the sun.

3. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

You can leave your answers in the comments section. As an added challenge, can you tell me why you chose each answer?

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Now for a little fun…

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One skill I have is finding sometimes unusual resources and below is a very unusual resource. The quality of the video clip isn’t very good. It’s in black and white and looks a little rough so it might be a very old video. It shows Professor Flurfflefinger who claims to have developed an anti-gravity ray but I found his ideas a little strange. See what you think…

Schools and students have permission to use this video clip for non-commercial, educational purposes.

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 After making this movie clip, Professor Flurfflefinger disappeared. Some believe he never really existed and the movie clip was a prank. Others believe he accidentally turned his anti-gravity ray on himself and is floating somewhere out in space. Still more believe real scientists laughed at his ideas so he now is in hiding promising to never talk about science again.

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Do you think his demonstrations are real or fake? Why?

 

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