The goal of using the scientific method is to determine cause and effect (Science Buddies, 2011). Keeping the five steps of the scientific method in mind for solving real world problems can save time and stop panic.
Scenario 1: You arrive home late at night. You walk up to the front door, unlock it, and reach in to turn on the light switch located just inside the front door. The light does not come on! Now what?
The first thing to do comes naturally; ask a question, “Why won’t this work?”
The second step is to gather background information. My first hypothesis is that the whole neighborhood might not have electricity. I test my hypothesis by looking around the neighborhood to see if any of the other houses have light. They all have lights on. So my first hypothesis is wrong.
My next hypothesis is that, somebody forgot to pay the electric bill. To test my hypothesis, I called my parents at work. They said, “Of course we paid the bill.” I need another hypothesis.
I decide I better check to see if the circuit breaker switch was tripped (Consumer Energy Center, 2011). I have a small flashlight on my keychain so I carefully walk through the house to the place where the circuit breakers are. A circuit breaker has been tripped. My hypothesis is probably correct. I reset the circuit breaker. The lights come on in the house.
My hypothesis that the circuit break was tripped turned out to be the correct hypothesis. I realized this when I saw one of the circuit breaker switches was down. I tested the hypothesis by resetting that breaker. I clicked it back up. The lights came back on in the house proving my hypothesis was correct. I have solved the problem.
My last step is to report to my parents that the lights are back on in the house and everything is fine.
Scenario 2: I told my parents I would clean the living room windows especially good when I got home from school today. My grandma is coming over after supper for coffee. They want to sit in the living room with her. The problem is I have no idea where to find any of the cleaning products. I don’t have time to go to the store to get more.
The first step of the scientific method is to ask a question. I ask myself, “What can I do now?”
The second step is to form a hypothesis. I remember reading in a magazine about using regular ingredients that are in a kitchen for cleaning. I hypothesize I can clean the living room with ingredients I can find in the kitchen.
I need some background information so I search on the computer for some ingredients that will be safe and still clean well. I find out that some people use vinegar in water to clean glass. According to the directions I fill a spray bottle half with white vinegar and half with water.
I test my hypothesis by spraying the window with the solution. The directions say to use crumpled up newspapers to wipe down the windows. Instead I have the rag bag with me. I wipe the window that has been sprayed with the vinegar solution with a rag to get the dust off. Then I use another rag to dry it well and make it shiny.
My hypothesis worked. I am able to clean the windows in the living room. They are very clean even though I used a chemical from the kitchen instead of buying a product from the supermarket.
I call my Mom at work to report the results of the experiment. That is the last step.
Part II: Why I cannot live with/without science.
When I woke up this morning I remembered that we should think of the ways we use science in real life. I decided to try to just think about what I could write about when I realized that I was breathing air. Breathing is a biological process. Without being able to breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide I would not be alive. That sort of shocked me into understanding that science is something I really cannot live without.
The first thing I usually do in the morning is go into the kitchen to drink a glass of water. I turned on the faucet for the water to run. My Dad reminded me that the reason water can get to our house is because plumbers understand how water moves through pipes which is part of the branch of science called hydrology.
I learned that hydrology is the study of water. In fact it is the science of “the occurrence, distribution, movement and properties of the waters of the earth and their relationship with the environment within each phase of the hydrologic cycle” (USGS, 2011). ‘Hydro’ means ‘water’ and ‘logic’ is ‘the study of’; the hydrologic cycle is the water cycle.
The study of the water cycle includes a lot of different sciences such as biology, chemistry, atmospheric science, geology and more. The USGS lists other the classes a person needs to be good at in order to become a hydrologists: “mathematics, statistics, physics and computer science as well as some classes in the social sciences (2011).
I sat and drank my water realizing I didn’t know if my water was pumped from the ground or if it was caught in rain barrels. Since we live in a city though I realized that my water was being pumped from the water treatment plant.
The water treatment plant is a place that uses science for all the treatment steps in order to get safe and good tasting water to people in the city. In general here are five different steps to treating water. Those steps are coagulation, sedimentation, filtration, disinfection and the last is storage (USEPA, 2011). I had not realized there was so much science going on before the water even got to the house.
Drinking water is also necessary to stay alive. A human body has to be hydrated with enough water so that all the biological processes of the body work properly.
When I was getting dressed I realized that the fabric in my clothes had to start somewhere. My cotton clothes start out in a cotton plant so agricultural and biological sciences must be used to grow good cotton. Then the cotton has to be hauled to a factory to be made into thread.
The trucks that transport the cotton use science because scientists had to design the combustion engine in the first place. Petroleum scientists mix different grades of petroleum and gas to make the diesel fuel that the trucks need to run on.
Once the truck delivers the cotton to the factory the process there had to be developed by scientists in order to figure out the best way to process the cotton to turn it into thread.
If I took a detailed look at how everything I did during a routine day was related to science; I realized I would be writing a small book. Throughout the whole day science is the reason I live the way I live.
Negative Impacts of Science
Unfortunately the negative impacts of science are around me all day, too. The pollution in the air downtown makes the air smell bad and it is not healthy to breathe. The pollution comes from the combustion engines in cars, trucks and motorcycles that are burning gasoline and diesel fuel.
As I go for a walk in my neighborhood I see that the wind has blown a lot of paper litter around. The litter is caught in fences and little ditches. Science was used to make all the packaging used to wrap up candy bars and most everything we buy. Science was also used to figure out how to turn aluminum ore into the cans that hold soda pop. The soda pop cans are not such a big problem though when people remember to recycle them.
Existing with or without science
I don’t see how I could exist without science even if I don’t know that science is what is keeping me alive. For example, I can breathe without having to understand the biology or anatomy that makes breathing work. So in terms of the human body I would say that it is impossible to live without science. But luckily I don’t have to know all the science because doctors, nurses and other professionals are always there to help out.
When I think about consumer goods though, I think that those could be managed a lot better. Science can be used in a better way so we can still have the things we need every day. For instance, designing inks and paper to make packaging that make people want to buy things shouldn’t be the most important use of science. Science can be used to help us have less packaging and packaging that is easy to recycle.
Quality of life
Science has had a good impact on my quality of life. I am able to have clean water and never give a thought to whether I will have enough water or not. I turn on the faucet and drink the water and that’s that. Also with electricity I can use my computer, have hot showers and cook. Having a refrigerator is really great. The food stays good enough to eat longer when kept in the refrigerator.
I also like the science that makes good perfumes and cosmetics. I feel like I have a very good life because of science.
Impact on my View of Science
Now that I have finished this assignment I am very surprised at how science has some effect on every single part of my routine during the day. Because I needed to research science for this paper I really learned a lot about science and about different careers that are available in different areas like hydrology.
I did not think about science much before this paper but when I did, I think I was a little afraid of science. I thought science might be too complex for me to understand. What I have learned is that everybody just studies a part of a larger problem, like having good water. There is no way one person can understand the whole subject of hydrology with all the reactions and interactions. I feel a lot more positive towards science. Science is more interesting to me now.
Being Prepared If The Power Goes Out. 2011. Consumer Energy Center. California Energy Commission. www.consumerenergycenter.org. 2011 Web. 26 Oct. 2011.
Cheap Alternatives for Basic Cosmetics. 2011. Hints and Things. www.hintsandthings.com. 2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.
The Steps to the Scientific Method. Project Guide. 2011. Science Buddies. www.sciencebuddies.org. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.
Water:Drinking Water. Water Treatment Process. 2011. United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Water.epa.gov. 7 Oct. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.
What is hydrology and what do hydrologists do? 20ll. United States Geological Survey (USGS). ga.water.usgs.gov. 8 Feb. 2008. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.