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What is science?

Douglas Duncan, Univ. of Colorado


Science is a process of trying to understand the world by making models (or theories) which have predictive power.  It usually involves:

  • Observing
  • Looking for patterns (which can be clues to underlying laws)

This may involve

– Sorting
– Classifying
– Measuring

  • Suggesting an explanation (hypothesis) which explains all the observations made so far AND predicts new ones
  • Making an experiment or collecting more data which tests the prediction

  • (If the experiment fails) Suggesting another hypothesis, and trying another experiment….
  • Telling others what you have discovered.

Many people think that science is a set of answers, a certain look,  or a certain vocabulary.  It isn’t. It’s a process.  Answers may change as we learn more (Is Pluto a planet?!) The scientific method: acquiring and using data to test ideas doesn’t change. As the great scientist Richard Feynman said, it is way of not fooling yourself and, I would add, not being fooled by others.  It’s a way of understanding the world that is self-checking and works to guard against the tendency we all have to believe our own ideas or appealing sounding stories too much!