The Natural Sciences

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The Natural Sciences
THE MOST INCOMPREHENSIBLE THING
ABOUT THE WORLD IS THAT IT IS
COMPREHENSIBLE. ALBERT EINSTEIN
ALL SCIENCE IS EITHER PHYSICS OR STAMP
COLLECTING. ERNEST RUTHERFORD
ALL OUR SCIENCE, MEASURED AGAINST
REALITY, IS PRIMITIVE AND CHILD-LIKE
AND YET IT IS THE MOST PRECIOUS THING
WE HAVE. ALBERT EINSTEIN
Questions to ponder about the Natural Sciences
 Brainstorm a list of words that you would use to describe
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Science.
What disciplines do you think come under the umbrella
‘The Natural Sciences’.
What do you think they all share in common?
Physics is regarded as a challenging school subject, called
'hard’ by many students. Why? What is it about Physics
that has earned it this reputation?
What is an experiment in Science? Students often claim
after they have done an experiment that it either ‘worked’
or it ‘did not work’. What does it mean when they say
this?
An Introduction to the Natural Sciences – Nicholas
Alchin
 Read this article.
 Answer the questions at the end.
The ‘Card’ Game
 You will be put into small groups
 You will be given 8 cards
 Each group in turn will be asked to offer me a card
 I will either accept or reject your card according to a
rule that only I know.
 You need to figure out the rule and try to get rid of all
your cards.
The ‘Card’ Game
 Round 1
Red, Black, Red, Black …..
 Round 2
Spade, Heart, Club, Diamond, Spade, Heart, Club,
Diamond…..
 Round 3
Even, odd, even, odd…..
The ‘Card’ Game
 What have you been doing in order to guess the rule?
 Pattern spotting (empirical observation)
 Guessing the rule based on past experience (inductive
hypothesis formation)
 Testing the rule (trying to falsify the rule)
 1,2 and 3 are easy to get . Most scientific rules are
not and are often about spotting complex patterns.
The ‘Card’ Game
 Round 4
 Prime, Not Prime, Prime, Not Prime….
 This pattern is mathematically based and often
reflected in science, ‘the laws of nature are written in
that great book whose language is mathematics’
Galileo
 Round 5
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Girl, boy, girl, boy …..
 Round 6
 Left hand, right hand, left hand, right hand……
The ‘Card’ Game
 5 and 6 were more difficult to get because you made
assumptions about what the game was about
(patterns, numbers, colours etc) your own beliefs
distorted the way you approached the problem!!
 Scientists do research and they bring to their
research through years of study their own paridigms
(commonly held beliefs within the scientific
community).
Petals on a Rose
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http://www2.whidbey.net/ohmsmath/webwork/javascript/dice2rol.htm
 Four dice will be rolled each round
 I will tell you what the score is at the end of each
round
 You can record the data.
 I will tell you how many petals there are.
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What does this show? It demonstrates beautifully how
sometimes empirical observations may not be recorded
accurately because of prior assumptions.
Problems of empirical obseervations
 If Science is steeped in empiricism what problems
does this pose?
The Scientific Method
 Step 1 – Experimental data / observations
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Supposed to be unbiased and objective.
Is this the case? What do you think affects the observer or what is
observed?
What we see is affected by our paradigms – knowledge, expectations
and cultural upbringing
 Scientists are only human and may choose to observe things based on
financial, political, social or personal reasons
 Observations are described in language, even the simplest observation
statement involves language – is there such thing as a neutral
observational statement?
 Often scientists observe a certain category and see that as important
without thinking about other possible categories. They don’t just
observe, they choose which aspects of a situation to concentrate on.
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The Scientific Method
 Step 2 – Inductive hypothesis
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All based on past experience. Science looks for certainty, induction
does not give certainty. We rely on inductive reasoning in arriving at
beliefs about what we have not observed namely the future!
 Step 3 to 4 – Creativity
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More often than not most theories are rejected.
 Step 3 and 5
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The acid test of any theory is to experiment and have the ability to
falsify the theory. Falsification allows theories to be weeded out that
do not meet with how nature works. A mechanism to eliminate
failures – central to the natural sciences.
What is an experiment?
 Read about the Scientific Method (Nic Alchin) and
answer the questions at the end.
 What justifies a scientific claim?
 What counts as an experiment? Can experiments be
carried out in other subjects?
 Science in school – how likely is it that the science
you do at school is wrong or incomplete? What
about the science in journals such as the New
Scientist?
Scientific Claims – An African Perspective
 Read Scientific Claims ‘An African Perspective’
 Discuss your answers.
The Truth is Out There
 Make notes in the following:
 Popper
 A paradigm shift
 A Scientific revolution
 Kuhn
 What shapes scientific research?
The Growth of Scientific Knowledge
 Has Scientific knowledge always grown?
 In this respect how does scientific knowledge
compare to the other AoK?
 Could there ever be an end to Science? In other
words could there be a point where everything in a
scientific sense is known?
 If so, what might be the consequences of this?
 Test tubes and Tantrums
Creativity in Science
 Define creativity
 What is the role of creativity in the sciences?
 Read ‘Creativity in Science’ and answer the questions
 Are scientists creative?

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