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Nature of Science Joel A. Bryan, Ph.D. Center for Mathematics and Science Education Texas A&M University jabryan@tamu.edu SCIENCE is… the search for relationships that explain and predict the behavior of the universe. PHYSICS is… the science concerned with relationships

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slide1

Nature of Science

Joel A. Bryan, Ph.D.

Center for Mathematics and Science Education

Texas A&M University

jabryan@tamu.edu

slide2

SCIENCE is…

the search for

relationships

thatexplain

andpredictthe

behavior of

the universe.

slide3

PHYSICS is…

the science

concerned with

relationships

betweenmatter,

energy,and its

transformations.

slide4

TAKS Objective 1 – Grades 5, 8, and 10

“The student will demonstrate an understanding of the nature of science.”

Science for All Americans

http://www.project2061.org/publications/sfaa/online/chap1.htm

Benchmarks for Science Literacy

http://www.project2061.org/tools/benchol/ch1/ch1.htm

slide5

“It is the year 2347. The Earth’s

natural resources are exhausted.

Scientists have determined that

the Earth will most likely explode

in a very short time.”

Bang!!!

slide6

“The development of space travel

and other technological advancements

have enabled scientists to prepare a

distant planet for human habitation.”

slide7

“You and a few others are fortunate to

have been selected as representative

members of planet Earth who will

survive and populate this new distant

planet.”

slide8

“Upon arrival, you are relieved to find

that the planet is indeed suitably

prepared for human existence, just

as promised.”

slide9

“Your joy soon turns to

frantic dismay when you

discover that the sole

member of your team with

knowledge of the voice-

activated oxygen producing

machine has taken deathly

ill and no longer remembers

the voice activation code.”

slide10

“As your oxygen supply quickly depletes,

a close inspection of the voice-

activated oxygen supply machine

reveals only a few vague instructions.”

Speak here.

Oxygen

Instructions

slide11

“Oxygen is produced by spoken

numerical code, of which

no number may be used

more than once.

Five consecutive invalid attempts

will cause this device to

completely self-destruct.

Press here to begin, speaking

loudly and clearly into the

microphone.”

slide12

Your task is to begin the process

of trying to determine the “code,”

or rule, that determines whether

or not a number is valid for

oxygen production.

slide13

WorksDoesn’t Work

2,4,6, 1,3,5,

For example, these numbers

might suggest to some viewers

that even #’s work and odd

#’s do not.

slide14

Participants should begin

with a “trial and error” type

process that quickly leads them

to form some kind of theory

regarding what constitutes

“successful” numbers.

Both successful and unsuccessful

responses should be recorded

for ease of evaluation.

slide15

Participants must then go through

a “scientific” process of testing,

evaluation, and modification

of their theories.

This process should illustrate

what is commonly referred to

as the “scientific method,”

along with many attributes

of the “nature of science.”

slide16

This activity provides opportunities

during the entire process to illustrate

aspects of the nature of science.

Additional time should be taken at

the end of the exercise to reflect on

the nature of science as evidenced by

this activity.

The following is a brief discussion of

how this activity illustrates some

aspects of the nature of science.

slide17

Nature of Science

aspects reinforced by this activity

include, but are not limited to:

  • Scientific conclusions depend

on the creative imagination

of the scientist.

slide18

Science is a social enterprise.

  • Scientific knowledge is dynamic

and subject to change.

  • Absolute certainty of a

scientific conclusion is

an impossibility.

slide19

Scientific conclusions depend

on the creative imagination

of the scientist.

  • Participants were limited in
  • their creativity by what they
  • had previously experienced
  • with numbers.
slide20

Each participant looked at the

  • exact same “evidence,” yet
  • depended on their own experiences
  • and creative imagination to
  • determine the “reality” of what
  • the numbers actually represented.
  • This naturally led to differing
  • interpretations of the same
  • “reality.”
slide21

For Discussion

In what ways are the “creative”

aspects of this activity similar to

“creative” aspects of “real” science?

In what ways are they different?

How might prior experiences

influence scientific interpretations?

Provide some possible examples.

slide22

Science is a social enterprise.

  • Because repeated failure would
  • be detrimental to the health
  • of all, it was necessary for
  • participants to reach some type
  • of consensus before attempting
  • a “trial.”
slide23

Participants were forced to

  • evaluate competing theories
  • and determine the most plausible.
  • This decision may not have always
  • been made on the basis of merit
  • alone.
slide24

For Discussion

In what ways are the social aspects

of this activity similar/different to

the social aspects of “real” science?

How are differences of opinion

settled in scientific issues?

Provide some possible examples.

slide25

Scientific knowledge is

subject to change.

  • A “theory” remains valid as
  • long as it explains prior
  • findings and is useful in
  • predicting new ones.
slide26

The “theories” were valid and

  • useful until new “discoveries”
  • proved them wrong.
  • Theories may undergo slight
  • change or total abandonment
  • when confronted with
  • discrepant evidence.
slide27

For Discussion

In what ways are the aspects of theory

change in this activity similar/different

to the theory change aspects of “real”

science?

How does one decide whether to

abandon or modify an existing theory?

Provide some possible examples.

slide28

Absolute certainty of a

scientific claim is not possible.

  • No amount of trials could ever
  • prove one theory totally correct.
  • Only one counterexample was
  • needed to invalidate a theory.
slide29

No one will ever

  • know with absolute
  • certainty the true
  • “rule” for the
  • oxygen machine
  • without seeing
  • the “card.”
slide30

For Discussion

In what ways are the uncertainties

of this exercise similar/different

to that of “real” science?

What would “seeing the card” mean?

Will scientists ever “see the card?”

Provide some possible examples.

slide31

TAKS Objective 1 – Grade 8 and Grades 10-11

“The student will demonstrate an understanding of the nature of science.”

Science for All Americans

http://www.project2061.org/publications/sfaa/online/chap1.htm

Benchmarks for Science Literacy

http://www.project2061.org/tools/benchol/ch1/ch1.htm