A Brief Explanation of the Scientific Method

This week my sister and I started taking an Intro to Chemistry MOOC from Duke University. We’re a little daunted by the math requirements, but I’m so far determined to figure it out! In one of the first lectures of the week we reviewed the scientific method. I won’t go through it in detail, but I’ll share what I learned about some of the terms used in science.

Most everything in science starts with observations. From here you develop a hypothesis to explain what you’ve seen. At this point the hypothesis is just an educated guess, you still must conduct experiments and test your hypothesis. If your hypothesis seems to work, then it is tested many times by many people. After many experiments, if the hypothesis has not been contradicted, then it can be considered a theory.

There is this really neat table that clarifies all of this very well. It is ironic that for being so high-tech, the best way I can find to share that with you is to take a picture of my hand-written version…

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While you’re observing, you may discover a law that will apply to all events, unlike your observation which is limited to the specific occurrences you’re able to witness.

Your hypothesis tries to explain, again, the events you’ve seen, and as that develops it becomes a theory which would then apply to all events. The theory, however, must be falsifiable in order to be a theory. This means that although no evidence has contradicted your theory up to this point, there is the logical possibility of this happening at some point in the future. So the theory holds until  proved otherwise.

So that’s it! I’ve just never really been clear on what these terms mean, so I found this lecture very helpful! : )

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