What is science? From the moment you wake up until the moment you sleep, you are surrounded by it. Our modern lives have all been shaped by science and those who implement it. But what is science? How did we start as cavemen and ended up in a modern tech-driven society? How does science work? How is it implemented by these so-called ‘scientists’? In this post, we’re going to try and answer this question.
Definition of Science
Science is the process of studying natural phenomena. As humans, we have always been interested in ourselves, our surroundings and how the world we live in works. We are curious creatures! We understand that if something exists, there must be a reason. We are excellent at finding cause and effect which is why we have been able to survive on this planet for so long and become who we are today. Science is the method of finding that reason.
The Scientific Method
The way we study our surroundings and the conclusions we make have come a long way since we first started. Long ago, our observations and conclusions were simple: as early as 4th century BC, people (scientists included), thought that simple living creatures such as maggots, came from rotten food. This phenomenon was called Spontaneous Generation. Of course, now we know that maggots are found on rotten food because that’s where the eggs hatch, but you get the idea.
As centuries passed and we refined our scientific skills, we came up with what we now call The Scientific Method. It helps us be as unbiased and as accurate as possible. Although we are smart and curious beings, we are not perfect and as a result, our observations and conclusions can sometimes be wrong as well. With that in mind, let’s look at the scientific method and what it entails:
Step 1: Observation
The first step is to be aware of your surroundings and always observe. Example: let’s go back to the rotten food and maggots. You observe that if you leave meat unattended outside a fridge for a day or two and come back, you will observe that maggots have indeed started wriggling about on the meat. This will then take you to step 2.
Step 2: Ask A Question
In this case, you might ask yourself: do maggots really form from rotten meat? At this point, you might want to do some background research, to see what’s out there. Perhaps your question has already been answered, or in most cases, it is likely someone has written information which can guide you in the right direction. After doing some research, you can then go to step 3.
Step 3: Form A Hypothesis
So far you’ve observed that maggots are indeed found on meat if you leave the meat unattended for a while. You’ve asked yourself if this observation is correct and have done some research to find an answer. Now it’s time to form a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a form of explanation for something you have observed. A hypothesis must always be tested to see if it’s correct or not. A hypothesis alone is never true. You must always remember that. So at this point, you can form the following hypothesis: maggots do form from rotten meat.
Step 4: Design An Experiment
So now you want to prove your hypothesis and you need to design an experiment which can test it. The best approach here is to have two pieces of meat, of the same type and if possible cut from the same animal. Why two? Because you need a control group. A control group helps your experiment to be as unbiased as possible. You put your control meat in a jar and keep that jar in a cool, dry place, while you leave the other meat somewhere where it will be at room temperature. Now here’s the deal: if your hypothesis is correct, then maggots should form on both of those meats. You leave and come back in a couple of days.
Step 5: Gather Results and Analyse
It’s been 2 days since you left the pieces of meat. You come back and first look at your room temperature, open meat: maggots are indeed there. Now you go and look at the piece in the jar: although the meat is no longer fresh, there are no maggots. That means your hypothesis was false.
Step 6: Communicate Your Results
You’re ecstatic about the result of your experiment. So you go and share your result with your friends and family. Naturally, some of them might be doubtful of your findings so they will ask to read through your results and have a discussion. Some might even choose to re-do your experiment step by step to see if they get the same result as you. This is called a Peer Review. Peer reviews are very important to the scientific community since they can help us get better and better results.
The steps above ensure that our scientific studies are as accurate and as unbiased as possible. Which is why when a hypothesis becomes a theory, which in turn, is a fact, you can be pretty sure that it will remain that way. That is why you can trust science!