Science can refer to the knowledge gained from observation and experimentation or the process by which we gain that information. The word science comes from the Latin word 'scientia' which is translated as 'knowledge'. This knowledge is based on things that can be observed with the senses and, therefore, deals with the physical world and universe. When studying a phenomena, quite often it is done with a model which explains the occurence or event that has been witnessed. These models can come in many forms. These models are then tested through experimentation to see if the models are correct or not correct. The process by which a model is tested is the scientific method.
Science is based on what can physically be seen and observed. Therefore, great difficulties arise when studying events from the past. Generally, the model that forms is an interpretation of what a scientist thinks has happened. There may or may not be a way to directly test that model today. Often, the test for a model of the past comes in its ability to accurately predict what is happening today or in the near future.
The science model is a testable idea used to describe a phenomena. Models are based on a set of observations and made by finding patterns in what is observed. Generally, because a model works with patterns, it is capable of being applied to many similar situations. Science models need to be testable, falsifiable, or able to be disproved in some way.
A useful model is one which can explain many aspects of a phenomena in a simple way. The more detail and complexity that is placed into a model the more powerful it becomes at accurately predicting events. However, adding too much complexity to a model can make it difficult to work with. Therefore, most models are a compromise of their power to predict and their simplicity of use. Any model that is too difficult to use or too simple to explain the phenomena is not a useful model.
Models can come in a symbolic form rather than a natural form. A mathematical formula is a very powerful symbolic model. Various details of a phenomena can be represented symbolically and then tested by simply changing the value of those symbols. With its extensive use in recent centuries, many phenomena have already been expressed in a mathematical symbol or formula adding to the ease of use for future models. Mathematical models ofte use the field of statistics and discuss the models in terms of probabilities.
The scientific method is a process by which models are made and carefully tested. The model generally first takes the form of a hypothesis or suggestion of how the phenomena under study occurs. After repeated testing which shows support for the hypothesis, it then becomes a theory with widespread acceptance as being accurate in many situations but still capable of being refined or changed with further testing. If a theory is found to be true and accurate in all situations in which it is involved, then it becomes a law. Very few hypotheses or theories make it to the status of a law.
The start of any scientific inquiry, is asking a question about something one has seen or experienced. The desire to understand the world and universe around us seems incredibly strong.
The research stage of the scientific method is extremely important. It is at this time that specific questions about the phenomena are formulated. It is also a time of defining the limits, objects, or concepts involved in the phenomena and how they should be measured or represented. Any initial measurements and observations are gathered. This is the information that they hypothesis will be based on. Therefore, more information and resources available at this stage should result in a better design for the hypothesis and any following experiments.
The hypothesis is a tentative or suggested explanation of a phenomena. It is a general statement with a reasoned proposal showing a possible pattern of occurrence of or within the phenomena being studied. It can be made by stating characteristics, using causal explanations, expressed symbolically through mathematics. It can express a detail of the phenomena at a certain point in time or in a particular instance, or be a universal statement for the phenomena at every time and instance.
A useful hypothesis will enable the scientist to predict the outcome of how a phenomena will react under certain circumstances. While the hypothesis tends to be general, the prediction is intended to be specific and, therefore, able to demonstrate the hypothesis is correct.
The experimental stage of the scientific method is the time of testing the hypothesis. Experiments can range from being done in the laboratory, to an archaelogical excavation, or needing to wait on a celestial event like a lunar eclipse. The test should be carefully designed to avoid error. Many methods of avoiding error have been established such as the use of control groups or making a double blind study. The tests can also be done under varying conditions to isolate internal and external factors that might influence the results. Detailed record keeping is essential so that the results can be reported with evidence of the integrity of the procedure. Record keeping also helps others when trying to reproduce the same results. During this stage, all new data and information should be recorded for study and use.
At this time, the data and information from the experiment is analyzed and interpreted. From this information conclusions and decisions are made as to whether the test results support the hypothesis or show something different.
Usually, the process of hypothesis, experiment, and review are repeated over and over as new information is gathered and the model is refined to be more exact and accurate.
For a hypothesis or theory to be accepted by the general scientific community, it must go through a process of confirmation. This often involves other scientists trying to reproduce the same results. It can also be in the form of a peer review which looks for systematic errors or deliverately false results. This process helps to protect against bad science and fraudulent data.
Science works primarily through what can be physically observed and measured. Neither creation (which occurred 6,000 years ago) nor evolution (which requires millions or billions of years) can be observed. Therefore, in the scientific realm both models are regarded as theories and each would be impossible to prove by direct observation. Yet each can be studied as a model that makes predictions of what we should see today. By comparing what is actually seen with what is predicted, the weight of evidence can be given to support one theory over another.