Nature of Science


Captions are on. To turn off, click CC at bottom right. We’ve gotten the question before, “So,
have you always loved science?” For my sister, science wasn’t love at first
sight. She started to develop a love for science
after she started discovering ways it was relevant to her life. But for me, yes. Yes, I have. And one thing that really brought science
alive for me as a kid was the science fair. We realize not every school participates in
a physical science fair— though there are actually online science fairs that you can
participate in if that’s something you want to explore. Basically, a science fair is an event where
the student comes up with a problem that they investigate. And it’s common that the steps of the scientific
method are used to investigate the problem in the science fair. You’ve likely heard of the scientific method. It is typically presented in a linear set
of steps. In my science fair, it went like this: I made
an observation of some type of phenomena. I then came up with a question, which was
stated in such a way that it could be investigated scientifically. I made a hypothesis, which is a suggested
testable explanation for the phenomena. Then I planned out my experiment, which has
a procedure of steps that I followed. The experiment turned out to be really exciting—although
I’m not sure my parents would have agreed—but I digress. Then I had an analysis where I analyzed the
data I had collected. I presented my data in graphs and tables. Then I made a conclusion, which also addressed
my original hypothesis. There was only one problem. I got really stuck on the misconception that
this particular, linear sequence of steps that I did for my science fair was the only
way scientists do science. Actually, I thought that was all there was
to it. Like a recipe for making a cake. I didn’t understand that scientists frequently
do NOT work in this linear sequence. Scientists often have to go back through steps
or take a different turn or ask new questions. Scientists frequently develop models for phenomena
and have to evaluate those models and adjust accordingly. See there isn’t just one, universal scientific
method that all scientists use. I mean even if you do a search for the phrase
scientific method online or in a textbook, you’re going to also find variety: some
include a research step or a separate prediction step that’s not part of the hypothesis—some
take out steps. I sometimes wish I could go back to my younger
self and tell her, “Now don’t think those steps are written in stone for how science
works.” But the scientific method did help me reflect
on experimental design by serving as a foundation for how a scientific process can work. What I loved most about science fair and going
through these steps was that I got to explore something I was curious about. And curiosity matters a lot to us—and many
who love science—because it is by exploring these curious questions about phenomena that
can lead us to all kinds of new learning. So that gets me thinking really of the nature
of science. The word science is derived from Latin meaning
“knowledge.” Science has the major goal of gaining knowledge,
regardless of which branch of science we’re talking about. Working in science leads to the development
of scientific theories and scientific laws, which we have an entire separate video about. Let’s talk about some important terms in
science that one could encounter if conducting a scientific investigation. We’ll use an example that we had used with
our infographic a while back. Have you ever heard of barnacles? Adult barnacles generally do not move and
are filter feeders. Many attach themselves to objects or even
animals—like the whale we mention in our ecology video. Some species will also attach themselves to
boats. Which might not sound like a big deal. Unless you got a lot of barnacles on your
boat. Then you could have a problem. I could make observations about the barnacles-
this is gathering data. I could count them, identify where on the
boat they are attaching, or describe their appearance. I might ask questions about these observations. I might also make inferences. Inferences are logical statements that can
be based on evidence I’ve gathered. For example, if I observe there are a lot
of barnacles on the boat that appear very different from each other, and I am aware
that there are many different species of barnacles that live in this area, I may infer that there
is more than one species of barnacle represented on the boat. With more observations and further study,
however, I may need to change my inference. Let’s say I wanted to test the effect of
different concentrations of a new eco-friendly additive that may prevent the attachment of
barnacles. This hypothetical eco-friendly anti-barnacle
additive can be added to eco-friendly boat paint. I might do some research about the species
of barnacles in the geographical region I am in and how barnacles attach to boats. I might research details of the ingredients
in the additive that I am wanting to test. When researching, I want to be sure to cite
my sources on this. But if I type this into a search engine and
automatically pick the first thing that comes up without checking whether the source is
credible, that could be problematic. Scientific papers are a good place to start
my search. They tend to be peer-reviewed before being
published in a journal. This means that the author’s peers—that
is, other scientists— evaluate their paper. But it’s also important to know how to read
a scientific paper critically. Check out some further reading suggestions
for improving your ability to read a science paper! If I were to set up this experiment, I should
have a control group. A control group is a group that does not receive
the treatment. The thing is, you have to ask yourself, what
is the treatment? Because once I know that, I can make sure
the control group doesn’t get it. So the treatment in this example is the anti-barnacle
additive. So, while my experimental groups will be boats
that receive different concentrations of the anti-barnacle additive in the boat paint,
the control group will just get the boat paint alone, without the extra anti-barnacle additive. I will still use the same type of application
tool on both groups to put the paint on. You might wonder, why did I include that detail? Well, it is ideal to keep as many other variables
the same as possible. I want to rule out that using the tool or
the paint application process itself is not having some type of additional impact. I want to ensure that I’m only really testing
the effect of the different concentrations of the anti-barnacle additive. All the variables that I try to keep the same
are called constants. Other constants would include using the same
boat models and same boat sizes in both groups. The boats should be kept in the same environment
and left for the same amount of time. If I do some graphing of my results, there
are a lot of different graph types to consider. I’m going to use a bar graph. Let’s say I obtain data after 12 months,
and I want to graph my data. When graphing, it’s important to identify
my independent variable and my dependent variable. I would place my independent variable on the
X axis. The independent variable doesn’t respond
to the other variable. It’s independent! In this example, the independent variable
would be the different concentrations of the anti-barnacle additive in the paint. The other variable is my dependent variable,
and it goes on the Y- axis. The dependent variable responds to the independent
variable. This could be the number of barnacles observed. Where independent and dependent variables
go on the graph, by the way, can be tricky to remember. There is a popular mnemonic known as DRY MIX. That can help you remember the dependent variable
or responding variable is placed on the Y axis. The manipulated variable or independent variable
goes on the X axis. When performing this experiment, I am investigating
how the independent variable—on the X axis—might cause changes in the dependent variable—on
the Y axis. So you can see this as a potential cause and
effect where the independent variable is being investigated as a potential cause to the dependent
variable- the effect. Is my hypothetical graph here flawless? No. I would need numerical labels with units shown,
graph titles, and repeated trials. Also, it’s likely we could improve this
hypothetical experiment itself if we could collaborate with others that were knowledgeable
about this, especially since we are not experts on barnacles- or boats- or barnacles on boats. Before we end, just a few last things about
science to fit into this short video. Science can only be used for phenomena in
our natural world. Ethics is an important discussion to have
when doing work in science. Science is for everyone, and it is a global
endeavor. Science is collaborative and it allows for
creativity. Oh, and science is not done. What I mean by that is— Petunia once told
me that in school, she’d read in her textbook about these scientists throughout history
and what they discovered or explored and she thought that science, for the most part, was
done. All discovered. Finished. But it’s not. Please know, the work of science is happening
everyday. From lifesaving medical treatments to potential
solutions for environmental concerns to understanding the universe that surrounds us—there is
so much we’re still learning all the time. And that’s why science communication —good
science communication with credible sources— is so vital when there is new information
gained. As well as our ability to evaluate it. And because science is for everyone, understanding
the nature of it is paramount for everyone. Well, that’s it for the Amoeba Sisters,
and we remind you to stay curious.

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