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1 SCIENTIFIC METHOD ASSIGNMENT Observations and Questions The purpose of science is to develop theories that explain the nature of us and our world. These laws must be simple and yet account for all the known facts relevant to the phenomena of interest. An example of this is Einstein's theory of relativity, which explains the interactions of astronomical objects as well as the nature of light and gravity. However, theories are not final or absolute, but are constantly being added to, supported or refuted through the cyclic process of the scientific method . All scientists apply the scientific method (in one form or another) to their research. In lecture you learned that this method includes observations, questions, hypotheses, predictions, tests and conclusions. We can represent this process by a flow chart: As you can see, the scientific method is a continuous process because the conclusions from one test (experiment) can become the observations for another cycle. This allows the researcher to modify the original hypotheses if the results of the tests of the predictions from the original hypotheses do not support it. This makes science a dynamic, ongoing process in which hypotheses are constantly being modified and updated as new evidence comes to light. When a hypothesis has been supported many, many times it may achieve the status of a theory . A simple example will illustrate this process. You have collected a set of observations about the sunflowers that you planted in your backyard last spring. You have observed that the plants closest to the chicken coop are taller, have thicker stems, bigger leaves, and larger diameter flowers with more seeds, than those of the plants growing farther away from the coop. These observations prompted you to ask the following question ; what is causing the observed differences between the sunflowers? The first step in answering your question is to formulate a hypothesis , an "educated guess" to explain your set of observations. We say it is an "educated" guess because it must be based on known scientific principles. Because you know
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