WHAT IS SCIENCE? • A good scientist asks questions about how the world around them works. Some questions a scientist might ask are: • How do ants breathe? • What causes chickenpox? • Why does water turn white when it goes down a waterfall? • How do pigeons know the way home? • What causes you to sneeze? • Why are sunsets red? • *** Write down your scientific question? What do scientists study? There are many different scientists because science covers many, many areas. So many in fact that it is often easier to split science into branches or disciplines. • Astronomers study astronomy—they watch the planets, stars and the universe. They will look at an eclipse of the Sun and ask ‘What caused that?’ Biologists study biology—they ask questions about living things. They will watch a cockroach and ask ‘Why do cockroaches always end up on their backs when they die?’ Chemists study chemistry—they investigate materials, chemicals and chemical reactions and how they can be used. They will shake up a soft drink and ask ‘Why did it froth all over the place?’ Ecologists study ecology—they look at how living things affect each other and the environment in which they live. They ask things like ‘What animals and plants might become extinct if a dam is built across this river?’ Geologists study geology—they study rocks, the Earth, earthquakes, volcanoes and fossils. They will not just look at a volcano, but will ask ‘When will it erupt again?’ Physicists study physics—they find out why things move and the forces and energy involved. They will look at a car and ask things like ‘What can we do to make it safer?’ Psychologists study psychology—they wonder why we behave the way we do. They will study you and ask ‘What makes you happy and why?’ Science covers lots of branches and sub-branches. A few examples are included in this chart. • Astronomy • Biology Botany (plants) Microbiology (germs, bacteria, viruses) Zoology (animals) Entomology (insects) • Chemistry • Ecology • Geology Seismology (earthquakes) Palaeontology (fossils) Vulcanology (volcanoes) • Psychology • Physics Acoustics (sound) Optics (light) Mechanics Revision questions • 1 What is an experiment? • 2 What are the five senses that we can use to make observations? • 3 How is the work of a scientist like that of a detective? • 4 List four different branches of science. • 5 List three sub-branches for each of: a biology b geology c physics. • 6 List four dangers that you might have to deal with in science. • 7 Which branch or discipline of science would these scientists be working in? a Johanna is studying the eating habits of a cheetah. b Yianni is currently developing a new plastic. c Josh is measuring the growth rate of an apple tree. d Brigid is studying the movement of the planets. e Lauren is studying the crystals embedded in a rock. • 10 What is a question these scientists might ask? a A biologist b A chemist c A physicist d A psychologist e An ecologist f An astronomer The mysterious case of the stolen sausages • After a beautiful sunny morning, the weather that fateful day turns terrible, with torrential downpours of rain and howling wind. You arrive home at 3.17 p.m. and are surprised to notice that the neighbour’s lawn has been mown. You are surprised, since from experience you know that wet grass is very hard to cut. You enter the house. The sausages that you left defrosting on the kitchen table are gone! You enter the lounge room and see that the front window has been shattered! Shards of glass lie everywhere. There is now nothing interrupting the view of next door’s beautiful garden. Mum’s favourite vase on the mantelpiece is lying in pieces on the floor. You remember that every time your neighbour dropped in she always used to say, ‘Why don’t you get rid of that old vase—it’s so ugly!’ The curtains are all messed up and the carpet is soaking wet and marked and smudged with mud! Some strands of blonde hair are stuck on the windowsill. But what’s this? A small stone has been placed in the middle of the coffee table— the calling card of the sausage burglar? Later that night you notice that Fritz, your golden retriever, hasn’t touched the food in his bowl. Your mission is to discover all the details of this mysterious case—who, when, why and how! Questions • 1 What do you want to know about the case? Scientists call this the aim. • 2 What observations have you made? • 3 What suspects do you have? • 4 What evidence is there to link them to the crime • scene? • 5 In conclusion, who do you think stole the sausages? • 6 Who or what broke the window? • 7 When did it happen? • 8 Who or what broke the vase? • 9 In what order did it all happen? • 10 In this investigation you acted as a detective. • What skills do a detective and scientists share? Present your work in one of the following ways: • as a series of answers to these questions • a story about what happened • a short play showing what happened • an interview with the police officer in charge of the investigation.