I know that my granddaughter will be measuring, measuring, and measuring some more in AICE Chemistry at her high school. Thank goodness this is not me. I am not a baker at home, so my kitchen lab is based on a bit of this and a dash of that. I am a cook. Bakers measure precisely and that is not my nature. I will be an observer of chemistry no doubt. That is likely very old school as chemistry began to mull about in the minds of humans from observations, but has since moved on to measuring and the scientific method of exploration. Imagine what the cave men thought when they discovered fire in their campsite lab.
This scientific method stuff has been crossing my path for years but I never really thought a lot about it. So I am going to look at the method used to solve some very tough scientific problems in more depth and in some order. Surely observation will be in there somewhere! Oh, by the way, the following steps may or may not be precise steps, but they capture my many general readings on scientific methods.
Forming a question, such as from an observation (sweet): I need to think of a question that I can then write a hypothesis from, go to the lab and measure stuff and develop an answer or a solution. In journalism we use the who, what, where, when and why. Likely in chemistry the questions will be what, where, when, how, and why. I can live with that.
Research and Hypothesis: Once I have an idea that I want to explore, I will research some or a lot to develop my hypothesis. The hypothesis, my educated guess, is what I think will be the solution and that which I must prove, or disprove. An hypothesis is a simple statement of what I expect to occur.
Experiment: Leaving observation. Heading towards measurement. I want to be out of here, now. But I won’t leave. Okay, if I were creatively cooking in my kitchen lab, I would plan out the ingredients and equipment needed, and the logical steps for a recipe. I would determine heat, timing, etc for the experiment of cooking a new recipe. If I err and it tastes less than great, I can redo it. I can change one thing only, such as less salt, more cinnamon, and such. Actually in my kitchen I might change more than one item, but in the chemistry lab the scientific method would prevent me from changing more than one item because only one change can happen at a time so observations and the analysis are accurate. In the chemistry lab I also might repeat my experiment to ensure the results. In the kitchen lab, we would devour my experiment.
Collecting data and observations (my strong suit): I love researching, learning and writing stuff down. So, if I were in a chemistry lab team, I would excel at recording observations, data collection, experiment learnings, and progress towards the hypothesis. Here is an important place to document, document, document. Journal, notes, charts, graphs, pictures. I would be biting at the bit to go buy a science project three-sided board immediately. Oh, and this would be the time to ‘fess up about errors and unexpected happenings. They too need to be documented.
The variables of the experiment would be noted as part of the analysis. When I added more cinnamon to my cooking experiment, I changed a variable or manipulated my recipe concoction. This is known in science as an independent variable. If I observed that adding extra cinnamon changed the color of my kitchen cooking experiment, I have witnessed a dependent variable, or a responding variable. It happens; I did not make it happen.
Conclusions: When you are critical thinkers like my granddaughter and I tend to be, conclusions are not always black and white, but can seem murky gray, while based on fact. We would analyze our data and such and summarize the results. Can we answer the hypothesis? Was it proven? Disproven? Love a good ending. Any scientific journal writing would be up to her, but I need to know where that science project board is now.
Theory: Rising higher up the ladder of scientific methodology is a scientific theory, the result of many repeats of the experiment proving time and again that the hypothesis and conclusions are consistent. Theories can predict behaviors in other experiments, for example. If the theory falters, it is the stuff that new hypotheses can be created from. Keep moving forward.
Scientific Laws: I am a law-abiding citizen so laws are typically acceptable to me except for anything that goes against my precious United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. Scientifically, rather than a theory, a law may be established and these scientific laws are more palatable to me because they result from carefully conducted scientific methods of research. A prime example of scientific laws is how gas elements will be affected by heat and cold. There are some laws about this and the lab person can count on the reaction time and time again. A good thing.
So, I hope this makes sense to you; it does to me.
Murphy’s Law: I always love Murphy’s Law, and like everyone else, I have slammed into Murphy on too many occasions. Chemistry lab will no doubt have such crashes. Here are a couple I found on the web from Jupiter Science:
You start your experiment and absolutely believe it is right and nothing will go wrong. Several things will go wrong, all at the same time.
Your experiment will always take more time than anticipated, it is a law of science (I didn’t say who’s law).
In your experiment you make a magnificent discovery today; you will likely find the errors tomorrow when your euphoria calms down. Murphy calls this effect “here today, gone tomorrow.”
Off to my kitchen lab. I have a new hypothesis for dinner tonight. Do you?