Science affects everyone, all day, every day, from the moment we rise, and throughout the night while we sleep. From the smallest action to the major decisions, we are all guided and influenced by science. The digital alarm clock that wakes you, the morning news on your TV or radio, the transportation you choose, your decision of baked potato over fries, your cell phone, the antihistamine for your allergy, the clean water that flows from your tap, and the light switch you flip at the end of the day have all been brought to you by science. In fact, the modern world would not be modern at all without the understandings and technology made possible through science.
To make it clear how deeply science is interwoven with our lives, just try imagining a day without science. But first, look around you and note what you see. Maybe you are at your desk, cleaning your glass, preparing to use the computer. Around you are scattered papers, pens, highlighters; the family cat is rubbing your legs and your cup of coffee is cooling. Out the window you can see mother in her garden and brother working on his truck while listening to the race. It’s a beautiful spring day, the sun is shining and the plants are standing tall and green thanks to the rain from last night. Dinner is in the crock pot. Life is good. Life is comfortable. Life is science.
Science even lies with our knowledge of all that — that from the tiniest atom that forms the metal in the computer circuit board, to the chemical reactions happening in your brain and body as you prepare to work, to the gathering clouds and distant rumblings that threaten more rain – all that is science.
Just as importantly, science is a reliable process by which we learn about all that “stuff” in our universe. The scientific method makes science different from many other ways of learning because of the way it is done. Science insists on testing ideas with evidence gathered from the natural world .
Although much science is complex, the most important characteristics of science are simple:
- Science only focuses on the natural world; it does not deal with the supernatural.
- Science is a method of learning about the natural world and is not just a collection of facts; instead it is a path to understanding.
- All science relies on testing ideas by determining the expectations of an idea and making observations to see if those expectations hold true.
- Accepted scientific theories are reliable because they have been rigorously tested, but as new evidence and new perspectives surface, accepted theories can be revised. Nothing is written in stone.
- Science takes a community effort. It depends on a system of checks and balances that ensure accuracy and understanding. Diversity allows for a broad range of perspectives on scientific ideas.
The testing of hypotheses and theories is an essential process of science. There are many explanations for any aspect of the natural world. Science collects the likely explanations and uses scientific testing to sort out those supported by evidence and refutes the rest. Science has two logical steps:
(1) If the premise is right, what would we expect to see?
(2) Do the results meet the expectation?
These basics —observation, regularity, theory, prediction, and testing— jointly comprise the scientific method. In practice, you can think of the method as a never-ending cycle in which observations lead to theories, which leads to questions, which lead to more observations, tests, etc.
Every law and theory of nature is subject to change, based on new observations.
Since I fancy myself a writer, I will use a writing example. Most of my stories begin as a few scribbled notes, sketchy ideas, and references to articles. These bits and pieces progress to a rough draft that is read, reread, and amended. I then submit my final draft for feedback to my ‘editor’ (usually a family member). The article is then rewritten (taking into consideration comments from my “editors”) to become a finished product, and finally, published.
1) My observation is: I need to write a new article
2) My Question is: Can I do it; what will it be about?
3) My Prediction is: I will write a great new article, using the information I have gathered! (The model for this is my first draft.)
4) My Test is: the feedback or evaluation from my “editors”.
5) Conclusion – Editor loved my article. Publish!
Conclusion – Lots of revision work suggested – do I take their advice or not? If yes – make changes and resubmit for evaluation. If no – publish ‘as is”.
Scientists use methods to evaluate and improve models that are very similar to simple trial and error. This may be hard to believe because science is so cloaked in complexity and terminology, but the same principles used in science are used for everyday tasks, like cooking, budgeting, and yes, writing. Understanding how to apply the scientific method to these (seemingly) un-scientific problems can be a valuable tool that is helpful in the workplace, at home and in making any important decisions.
Science has definitely changed the quality of life for all mankind. Thanks to science we have refrigeration so our food won’t spoil and we have heat and water at our fingertips. We have vehicles to transport us over land, sea, and air. Thanks to the scientists at NASA, space exploration has given us things like the micro-wave, cordless tools, enriched baby food, smoke detectors, GPS systems, Velcro, freeze dried foods, and solar panels to name a few. And of course, Tang and my favorite, Space Ice Cream!
Medical Science has given us new medicines, techniques, and procedures that save, extend and improve lives. The International Human Genome Project, for instance, discovered a complete set of human genetic information that allowed doctors and scientists to understand what our roughly 23,000 genes do. Electronic medical records allow doctors to harness healthcare information in centralized locations and stem cell research promises a whole new frontier in medicine.
Science has contributed to how we spend our leisure time and how we educate our children. It has allowed me to continue my education from the comfort of my home. In fact, some think that online educational opportunities will replace traditional educational institutions in the near future.
Science has improved our industry and agriculture in many ways. The science and technology of the Internet have made this a global society with the ability to share information as soon as it becomes available and news even as it happens. Science fuels the raging debate over climate change that some just will not accept regardless of scientific evidence.
Science permeates our lives and informs our actions. Physics teaches us about gravity, how mirrors work, and how heat and cold is transferred by various materials. Chemistry addresses the principles of matter, like atoms, molecules and compounds that make up the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the medicines we take when we are sick…things we can’t live without. Biology tells us why we are the way we are, what we need to thrive, how every living thing serves a purpose, where we came from… All these things are related to science.
Our future depends on an unremitting wave of new scientists to keep our economy growing; students who are ready for modern scientific research, teaching and technological development. Science is much more than the formulas and test tubes of the laboratory. Science is rewarding, interesting, important and, (sometimes) fun. It allows us to understand the world and to appreciate its complexities. The more we learn about the natural world, the more we question and the more we question the further we are pushed towards the future.
“…reality and the nature of existence was not only much more complex than I could ever imagine, it was also much more precious and wonderful in that complexity”. (NativeSkeptic, 2011)
- What Is Science? From Feynman to Sagan to Asimov to Curie, an Omnibus of Definitions (leggotunglei808.wordpress.com)
- Scientific Method (creationscience4kids.com)
- COMMENTARY: Why are conservatives stepping away from science? (wilmingtonfavs.com)
- What is science? (ursuscetacea.wordpress.com)