Friday, February 24, 2006

Understanding and Using the Scientific Method

Finding the Answers
The scientific method is a process that scientists developed to form and answer questions. The scientific method arose mostly in the 17th and 18th centuries. This was a period of great scientific revolution in England and Europe, the era of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Hooke, Leibniz, Halley, Newton and Young.

We (scientists and science students) spend a lot of time making observations about the world around us, conceiving and running experiments, making guesses and finding creative solutions to problems and mysteries. The scientific method is an important procedure we follow to work through these questions and guesses and arrive at the truth (or, at least, as close to the truth as we can get).

There are six basic steps to the scientific method:

1)Ask a question.

2)Research the topic – it is important to understand as much as you can about what people already know about your question, so you will know which direction to head in.

3)Form an hypothesis – a personal opinion about what the answer to your question will be, based upon all the research you have done and your physical intuition about how the world works.

4)Test the hypothesis with an experiment.

5)Draw conclusions about the validity of your hypothesis based upon the results of your experiment.

6)If you are performing ongoing research, then you can use your conclusions to formulate further questions, starting the cycle over again.

For the past three hundred years, physicists have used the scientific method to make innumerable discoveries: the Copernican model of the solar system; Newton's laws of motion; Thermodynamics; Electromagnetism; Quantum Mechanics; and Relativity and Statistical Mechanics. We are continuing to apply this powerful tool to the unresolved questions – from String Theory to Weather Prediction.

No comments: