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The Nature of Science (NOS). Leslie Brodie, NBCT, M.Ed. Science Specialist Institute for Math and Science Education University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. What is Science?.

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The Nature of Science (NOS)

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The nature of science nos

The Nature of Science (NOS)

Leslie Brodie, NBCT, M.Ed.

Science Specialist

Institute for Math and Science Education

University of Arkansas-Fort Smith


What is science

What is Science?

“Science explores and addresses questions about the natural world leading to valid and reliable generalizations and explanations, using methods of investigation and producing evidence open to review by others”.

W.F. McComas, 2006


Why teach the nature of science

Why Teach the Nature of Science?

  • The understanding of how science works is not gained by acquiring scientific knowledge, nor does the knowledge of the philosophy and sociology of science alone lead to scientific knowledge. In order for students to attain scientific knowledge, educators must merge these aspects of science so they reinforce one another. Classroom teachers, as well as curriculum supervisors and specialists, are charged with improving students understanding of science and its nature.

  • The nature of science is a bridge between history, philosophy, sociology, and the psychology of observation. It is how scientific knowledge is constructed. It defines how science works.

  • An important step in merging scientific knowledge with the philosophy and sociology of science is a deep understanding of the basic tenants of the nature of science.


Nature of science core tenets

Nature of Science Core Tenets

  • Science is durable but tentative

  • Science relies on observation, evidence, rational arguments, and skepticism.

  • Science has no universal method.

  • Science is an attempt to explain natural phenomena.

  • Science laws and theories serve different roles.

  • Science discovery must be communicated clearly and openly.

  • Science requires replication, accurate record keeping, and peer review.

  • Science observations are theory-laden.

  • Science is a creative endeavor.

  • Science history is both evolutionary and revolutionary.

  • Science is part of social and cultural traditions.

  • Science cannot answer all questions.

  • Science is a collaborative process and scientific contributions are made by multiple cultures.

  • Science and technology are distinct.


Science is durable but tentative

Science is durable but tentative

“It is the charm of physics that there are no hard and fast boundaries, that each discovery is not a terminus (end) but an avenue leading to country as yet unexplored, and that however long the science may exist, there will still be an abundance of unsolved problems.”

J.J. Thomson (1856-1940), English Physicist, Royal Institution lecture, 1897.


Science is durable but tentative1

Science is durable but tentative

“Any physical theory is always provisional…..[because] you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the results will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with predictions of the theory.”

-from A Brief History of Timeby Stephen Hawking


Science relies on observation evidence rational arguments and skepticism

Science relies on observation, evidence, rational arguments, and skepticism

“In general, we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the results of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple state is the key to science”.

Richard Feynman in the

Character of Physical Law


Science relies on observation evidence rational arguments and skepticism1

Science relies on observation, evidence, rational arguments and skepticism

“Science depends on organized skepticism, that is, on continual, methodical doubting. Few of us doubt our own conclusions, so science embraces its skeptical approach by rewarding those who doubt someone else’s.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith

Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic

Evolution

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eTUz61LNjo


Science has no universal method

Science has no universal method

  • The scientific method has a limited use within science because many discoveries are made in unmethodical ways. Although there are procedures that can be described as a method of science, there is no correct procedure for scientific discovery and testing.


Science has no universal method1

Science has no universal method

“If you want to find out anything from the theoretical physicist about the methods they use, I advise you to stick closely to one principle: Don’t listen to their words, fix your attention on their deeds” (p. 65).

Albert Einstein from

Bite Size Einstein

by Jerry Mayer and

John P. Holmes


Science is an attempt to explain natural phenomena

Science is an attempt to explain natural phenomena

“My scientific work is motivated by an irresistible longing to understand the secrets of nature and by no other feelings. My love for justice and the striving to contribute toward the improvement of human condition are quite independent from my scientific interests(p. 23)”.

Albert Einstein from

Bite Size Einstein

by Jerry Mayer and

John P. Holmes


Science is an attempt to explain natural phenomena1

Science is an attempt to explain natural phenomena

“[Quantum mechanics] describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it agrees fully with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is – absurd.”

Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988)

American Physicist

QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter


Science laws and theories serve different roles

Science laws and theories serve different roles

  • The terms theory and law are fundamental aspects of the nature of science. This being said, it is imperative that the scientific community agree on what aspects distinguish theory from law.

  • Laws and theories are distinct and unique kinds of scientific knowledge.

  • A law is a generalization, principle, or relationship. A theory is an explanation. A hypothesis is a prediction. It can be an explanatory hypothesis (immature theory - baby theory) or a generalizing hypothesis (immature law).

  • The important thing to note is that hypotheses do not become theories then laws.


Science laws and theories sever different roles

Science laws and theories sever different roles

Law

Theory

  • are generalizations about patterns in nature

  • explain individual phenomena

  • are considered universal and invariable facts

  • can be found or discovered

  • provide mechanisms (explanations) for observations

  • must be supported by experimentation

  • incorporate laws sometimes from varying disciplines

  • are a result of creativity not discovery


Science discovery must be communicated clearly and openly

Science discovery must be communicated clearly and openly

  • Upon discovery of the nature of light, Max Planck explains his theory on December 14th, 1900 to the Berlin Physics Society. The audience, comprised of fellow colleagues and physicists, listen politely and yawn (primarily because some of his previous theories had proven incorrect). However, they fail to realize the historic occasion except his young friend Albert Einstein.


Science requires replication accurate record keeping and peer review

Science requires replication, accurate record keeping, and peer review

Robert Millikan wrote in 1949: “I spent ten years of my life testing that 1905 equation of Einstein’s, and, contrary to all my expectations, I was compelled in 1915 to assert its unambiguous verification in spite of its unreasonableness.”

“When Einstein finally got a Nobel Prize, it was for his work on photoelectricty, not relativity. Millikan got one too for his experiment that proved photons exist. But someone else had to prove it again, before Millikan or others really believed what the experiments told them: Photons are particles of light that also exist as waves (p. 93).”

From Joy Hakim’s

Einstein Adds a New Dimension


Science observations are theory laden

Science observations are theory laden

  • We all observe the world with our own biases and prior conceptions.

  • Bias can be useful in helping scientists sift through useless data.

  • However, sometimes prior conceptions block our ability to “see” something interesting.


Science observations are theory laden1

Science observations are theory laden

“By nature I am peacefully inclined and reject all doubtful adventures….However, a theoretical interpretation had to be found at any cost, no matter how high….I was ready to sacrifice every one of my previous convictions about physical laws.”

Max Planck (1858-1947)

German physicist

from a letter to the

American physicist

Robert W. Wood


Science is a creative endeavor

Science is a creative endeavor

  • Einstein engaged in Gedanken (thought) experiments. One of his thought experiments involved imagining himself riding on a light beam. With this ingenious leap of imagination, Einstein’s answer led science in a new direction.

  • According to Einstein, to realize that it is not the charges nor the particles but the field in space between the charges and the particles that are essential for the description of physical phenomena required a great deal of scientific imagination.


Science is a creative endeavor1

Science is a creative endeavor

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Albert Einstein from

Bite Size Einstein

by Jerry Mayer and

John P. Holmes


Science history is both evolutionary and revolutionary

Science history is both evolutionary and revolutionary

“My part in producing the atomic bomb consisted in a single act: I signed a letter to President Roosevelt, to press the need for experiments on a large scale in order to explore the possibilities for the production of an atomic bomb. The likelihood that the Germans were working on the same problem with a chance of succeeding forced me to this step. I made one great mistake in my life when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them.”

Albert Einstein from

Bite Size Einstein

by Jerry Mayer and

John P. Holmes


Science is part of social and cultural traditions

Science is part of social and cultural traditions

  • Scientific work is related to the interests and priorities of the particular nation or culture.

  • Funding and national priorities play large roles in the direction taken by scientific research.

  • While scientists were breaking the rules of the past when experimenting with light behavior, artists such as Claude Monet’s impressionism focused on light at the end of the 19th century.


Science is part of social and cultural traditions1

Science is part of social and cultural traditions

“The war made it obvious by the most cruel of all arguments that science is of the most immediate and direct importance to everybody. This had changed the character of physics.”

Victor Weisskopf (1908-2002), Austrian-American physicist,

J. Robert Oppenheimer Papers


Science cannot answer all questions

Science cannot answer all questions

  • Science cannot answer questions of aesthetics, morality, ethics and religion.

  • “Religion and science are not in conflict if each is properly applied – they answer different kinds of questions. Potential friction can be reduced by knowing what kinds of questions are appropriate to ask of which authority.”

    Dr. Bill McComas, 2006


Science cannot answer all questions1

Science cannot answer all questions

  • Scientists cannot determine if God played a role in the Big Bang Theory. God is not a provable theorem. That doesn’t mean the God theorem is not true or that eventually it might be proved by a new discipline different from our current science (Hakim, 2007).

  • Cosmologists were forced to consider how the universe was created and how it would end when Hubble discovered the universe was flying apart. These questions had been left to theologians and philosophers instead of scientists prior to this discovery (Hakim, 2007).

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2WDRqQVlkw&feature=related


Science is a collaborative process and science contributions are made by multiple cultures

Science is a collaborative process and science contributions are made by multiple cultures

  • Ernest Rutherford and his associates at Cambridge in England begin work on a particle accelerator. At the same time, scientists in the United States are working on the same project. John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton at Cavendish Lab win the race.

  • In California, Linus Pauling studies molecules of living tissue while Watson and Crick (Cavendish Lab) discover the double helix structure of DNA based on the work of physical chemist Rosalind Franklin. Pauling misses the discovery because he was unable to travel to see the X-ray diffraction pictures taken by Franklin.


Science is a collaborative process and scientific contributions are made by multiple cultures

Science is a collaborative process and scientific contributions are made by multiple cultures

  • The Manhattan project employs 130,000 people. J. Robert Oppenheimer served as the lead scientist. Oppenheimer studied at Harvard, but traveled to study with J.J. Thomson at Cambridge, Bohr in Copenhagen, and Max Born at Gottingen.

  • The Laser Interferometer Gravitation-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a world-wide scientific collaborative. LIGO detectors are devised to search for gravity waves. It is thought that studying gravity waves will give us information about the origin of the universe. There are two LIGO sites in the United States: one in Louisiana and one in Washington. Additionally there are 40 international LIGO institutions spanning the globe from Italy, Germany, Japan and Australia.


Science is a collaborative process and scientific contributions are made by multiple cultures1

Science is a collaborative process and scientific contributions are made by multiple cultures

  • Working together, the particle physicists, astrophysicists and cosmologists began to map in precise detail what happened almost 14 billion years ago in the earliest moments of the cosmos.

  • “In 1966, Carl Sagan and IosifShklovskii (a Soviet astronomer) published a book, Intelligent Life in the Universe. It was a rare example of Soviet-American collaboration during the Cold War, and it led to joint space exploration programs (p. 443).”

    From Joy Hakim’s

    Einstein Adds a New Dimension

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cb0t-347OlE&feature=related


Science and technology are distinct

Science and technology are distinct

  • Science and technology are not the same.

  • Pure science generates knowledge for the sake of knowledge alone.

  • Technology makes use of scientific knowledge to achieve a specific purpose.

  • Often, science and technology interact and impact one another.


Science and technology are distinct1

Science and technology are distinct

  • Einstein received a Nobel prize for his work with the photoelectric effect. Every time you check out at the grocery store, a beam of high-frequency light shines across the conveyor belt and strikes a metal plate on the opposite side. The metal plate emits electrons that turn on an electric current, which makes the belt move. This is an example of technology as a result of science.

  • Spectroscopes (scientific technology) were designed to allow scientists to examine the light that elements emit.

  • What types of technology can you think of that were created to advance science?

  • What types of technology can you think of that were created as a result of scientific discoveries?


How is the nature of science taught in today s classroom

How is the Nature of Science taught in today’s classroom?

  • If the nature of science is present in today’s classroom, it is predominately teacher directed or taught by allowing students to perform investigations that are primarily verification labs or “cook-book” experimentations.

  • However, the current trend in education is to teach science through an inquiry based approach.


So what is science and it s nature

So What is Science and it’s Nature

“If you are a scientist you believe that it is good to find out how the world works; that it is good to find out what the realities are; that it is good to turn over to mankind at large the greatest possible power to control the world and to deal with it according to its lights and values…..It is not possible to be a scientist unless you believe that it is good to learn. It is not good to be a scientist, and it is not possible, unless you think that it is of the highest value to share your knowledge, to share it with anyone who is interested. It is not possible to be a scientist unless you believe that the knowledge of the world, and the power which this gives, is a thing which is of intrinsic value to humanity, and that you are using it to help in the spread of knowledge, and are willing to take the consequences (p. 242).”

J. Robert Oppenheimer

From Joy Hakim’s

Einstein Adds a New Dimension


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