Modern science is built on facts. It’s a process for fitting facts into some interconnected whole, for a bigger picture. Why is it an extremely powerful tool? And, what are the different terms used by scientists for the meaning of basic scientific methods?
Science of Change and Growth
Science is always prepared to change and grow. Before the 1930s, the idea of galaxies was foreign to everyone. The location of stars in the sky seemed to be mostly uniform, except for the Milky Way, called Linnunrata or ‘way of the birds,’ by the Finnish people. The Milky Way, a stripe in the night sky is brighter than other parts and the name came from Greek mythology, when the goddess Hera was feeding the demigod Heracles and a few drops of milk were spilled, consequently spreading across the sky. The real reason for that brighter patch of the sky was, that the Milky Way is a galaxy of stars.
Learn more about the misunderstandings of relativity.
The term, Linnunrata originated because the ancient Finns thought that the Earth was flat and the edge of the Earth was where birds flew in winter. According to the legend, they followed the Milky Way to get there, hence the name ‘way of the birds.’
Greeks, Finns, and other ancient people had ideas that needed to be changed as more data came in. Both the mythological ideas were discarded, centuries ago and replaced with the idea of stars spread uniformly throughout the heavens. The idea of the galaxy wasn’t embraced until the 1930s when new telescopes showed a very different picture of the universe. The new data meant that the scientific picture of the world had to change.
The Process of Modern Science
Science is more about the process of learning, understanding, synthesizing, revising, and repeating the process over and over again, for a better understanding of the world. But there are things that won’t likely change and will be true forever. For example, gravity pulls things downward, improved sanitation reduces diseases, and planes do fly. Good scientists are constantly open to new data and willing to change their views when new observations are encountered.
The way the scientific method is normally taught deviates from how it is actually practiced. Most people encounter a description of the scientific method in elementary or in middle school. That introductory description is based on a recursive method, starting with an observation of a phenomenon. For example, if someone saw bumblebees landing on flowers from which they form a hypothesis, that flowers were a source of food for bees. A hypothesis is described as an educated guess. Then experiments are done to test the idea. If the experiment failed to support the hypothesis, it was rejected. If it succeeded, then they would elevate their hypothesis to the level of a theory, called a tested hypothesis. If the theory was tested over and over again, supported by the data, the idea was elevated to being a lawyer, the highest status one could have in science. Examples of that were Newton’s Law of Gravity or Ohm’s law, which described how materials resisted the flow of electrical current. Scientific research is never simple, but the process is tough, with far more twists, turns, revisions, and surprises.
Hypothesis in Modern Science
Science is way more interesting. and the terminology used as hypothesis means an informed guess, theory, a tested guess, and law, a well-tested guess. Probably the least troublesome of the scientific terms is the hypothesis, used by everyone to mean an educated guess or a motivated explanation for something.
But there is a problem with the word theory. The theory is a description of the scientific method, meaning a tested hypothesis, which means something that is supported. But, for a lot of people, it often implies a very poorly supported idea. For example, if two people were arguing and one of them said, ‘So, what’s your theory’? The tone of voice, conveyed, is a dismissal of the idea as not being worthy of even considering.
Theory of Scientists
The scientists use the word, ‘theory’ in a different way, which is more along the lines of what basic scientific method means when the word law is used. The germ theory of disease is considered a scientific fact. Microorganisms do indeed cause disease. For Einstein’s theory of general relativity, there is no credible debate over this idea. The GPS on the phones wouldn’t work if we didn’t take relativity into account.
Learn more about the various ways statistics can be misused to fool you.
Using The Term ‘Law’
The term, ‘law’ has fallen out of favor which most scientists don’t use, except in a historical context, for instance, Newton’s law of gravity and the law of conservation of mass in chemistry. Newton’s law was developed in the mid- to late-1600s, while the law of conservation of mass originated in the 1700s. The term law was often used in the 1800s in electricity, like Coulomb’s law, which described the force between two electrically charged particles, or Ampère’s law, which described how magnetic fields and electrical currents were connected.
Newton’s law of gravity and the law of conservation of mass were both demonstrated to fail at high energies and strong gravitational fields. For both cases, it was Einstein’s theory of relativity, an idea that is now labeled as a theory which is a superior description of nature than an older version labeled as law.
The Theory of ‘Model’
The term, ‘model’ is used a lot these days. There is the standard model, describing the subatomic world. The term model tries to delineate the distinction between the natural world and the ideas used to describe it. For instance, a hurricane is a hurricane. Winds blow and buildings topple. The hurricane is the reality. However, atmospheric scientists try to predict things before they happen, like the hurricane’s intensity and path.
Thus, a model is like a theory, though the word often implies a calculational aspect than an explanatory one. If the goal is to make calculations, scientists more often use the word model, and if the outcome is something that shows a mathematical encapsulation of an underlying truth of nature, the term used is theory.
Common Questions about Modern Science
Modern science is important because it facilitates the process of learning, understanding, synthesizing, revising, and repeating the process for a better understanding of the world around us.
The hypothesis in science means an informed or a tested guess, theory, or a motivated explanation for something.
An example of a hypothesis, if someone saw bumblebees landing on flowers, from which they form a hypothesis, that flowers were a source of food for bees. A hypothesis is described as an educated guess where experiments are done to test the idea.
The Milky Way represents a stripe in the night sky which is brighter than other parts. The name came from Greek mythology, when goddess Hera was feeding the demigod Heracles and a few drops of milk were spilled, consequently spreading across the sky.