Ecology+Lab+1 - LAB 1 The Scientific Method The so-called...

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43 LAB 1 - The Scientific Method The so-called “scientific method” is a process that facilitates learning about the world. What distinguishes it from other methods (say, like meditation) is that this method is trying to derive objective statements about the world. Objective statements are generated independently from the knowledge or beliefs of the observer. This also implies that any observer, following the same steps of the scientific method, should come to the same conclusion. This being said, the scientific method is an open ended process, as answering one question often opens up many more questions. This is not a weakness of the scientific method, but fundamental to the process of advancing the body of collective knowledge about the world. In a nutshell, the scientific method involves the following steps: (1) Observe some aspect of the universe that spurs your interest. Example : Hummingbirds are nice to look at and I like to feed them with a hanging feeder on my porch. Humming bird nectar formulas sold at the stores have similar ingredients, but some have red color added to them and some are clear . (2) Formulate a question based on your observation. Example : Does nectar color make a difference to the humming birds? Note that at this stage the question is still broadly formulated and may not have a simple answer. Still, it expresses what interests you most. The next step involves paring the question down into something smaller and more manageable. This is often the most difficult step in the scientific process and it requires some creativity. (3) Formulate one or more testable hypotheses that address your question. Hypotheses are just statements that anticipate the result of an experiment. Example : Humming birds visit feeders with red nectar as often as feeders with clear nectar. . Your hypothesis could have also been “Humming visit feeders with red-colored nectar more often than feeders with clear nectar”. It is customary to phrase hypotheses as a so-called “Null Hypothesis”, which you may think of as the “less interesting” experimental result. Thus, the first hypothesis above is a Null Hypothesis. However, you are free to state a second, “Alternative Hypothesis” about red-color preference. In reality, both hypotheses could be wrong; hummingbirds may in fact prefer pigment-free nectar. It is crucial that a hypothesis
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44 could be wrong (falsifiable), otherwise it makes no sense to test it. (4)
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Ecology+Lab+1 - LAB 1 The Scientific Method The so-called...

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