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In this lab, you will be reviewing and applying the scientific method and learning how to convert units to the metric system.

Science is an objective, logical, and repeatable attempt to understand the principles and forces operating in the natural universe. Science is from the Latin word, scientia, to know.Good science is not dogmatic, but should be viewed as an ongoing process of testing and evaluation. One of the hoped-for benefits of this course is that you will become familiar with the process of science.

In order to conduct science, one must know the rules of the game, what science can and cannot accomplish, and the process by which scientists gather and interpret data. Imagine playing the game Monopoly (or some other game) and having to discover the rules as you play! The scientific method serves as a guide process that can be modified. In some sciences, such as taxonomy and certain types of geology, laboratory experiments are not necessarily performed. Instead, after formulating a hypothesis, additional observations and/or collections are made from different localities in an attempt to test the hypotheses.

There are many versions of the scientific method. We will consider these steps to include:

  • Observation: gathering detailed information in the world around you.
  • Hypothesis: one or more falsifiable explanations for the observation.
  • Experimentation: Controlled attempts to test one or more hypotheses.
  • Conclusion: was the hypothesis supported or not? After this step, the hypothesis is either modified or rejected, which requires the experimenter to repeat the steps above.

After a hypothesis has been repeatedly tested, a hierarchy of scientific thought develops. Hypothesis is the most commonly developed, with the lowest level of certainty. A theory may be thought of as a hypothesis tested repeatedly with little modification (e.g., the theory of evolution by natural selection). A Law is one of the fundamental underlying principles of how the universe is organized (e.g., the laws of thermodynamics, Newton’s law of gravity, etc.).

Notebook Activity: How do you apply the scientific method in everyday life? List several examples.






Measurement in Science

Since science needs to be repeatable, a common set of measurement units should be developed. Today, most of us do not know how long a li was, or how much a cubit was. English units (such as feet, pounds, ounces) and the metric system (meter, grams, liters) have replaced these ancient units of measure. The United States of America is perhaps the only major world power NOT using the metric system.

Scientists use the metric system of measuring since the units are all in tens or tenths. Dividing and multiplying by ten is rather easy, even without a calculator.  This internal logic makes the metric system superior to the English units (twelve inches in a foot, but only three feet in a yard!).

Scientists employ the metric system to measure the size and volume of specimens. The basic unit of length is the meter (slightly over one yard).  Prefixes are added to the “meter” to indicate multiple meters (kilometer) or fractional meters (millimeter). Below are the values of some of the prefixes used in the metric system.

kilo = one thousand of the basic unit
           meter = basic unit of length
                       centi = one hundredth (1/100) of the basic unit
                                   milli = one thousandth (1/1000) of the basic unit
                                               micro = one millionth (1/1,000,000) of the basic unit
                                                           nano = one billionth (1/1,000,000,0000) of the basic unit

The basic unit of length is the meter (m). The gram (g) is the basic metric unit of weight. The prefixes listed above can be applied to all of these basic units, abbreviated as km, kg, ml, mg, nm, etc. The Greek letter micron (µ) is applied to small measurements (thousandths of a millimeter), producing the micrometer (symbolized as µm).

One liter (L) is the basic unit of volume. It can be subdivided into milliliters (ml; 1/1000 of a liter). How many ml are in a twelve-ounce soda? (Note: YOU SHOULD NOT BE LOOKING AT AN OPEN SODA CAN IN THE LAB…EVER!)

One gram (g) is a unit of mass (or weight). One thousand grams make up a kilogram (kg). We can measure fractions of a gram as milligrams (mg, 1/1000 g) or micrograms (µg; 1/1,000,000 g).

If there are 1000 meters in a kilometer, how many meters are there in 0.05 km?

If there are 1,000,000 micrometers (µm) in a meter, how many µm are there in one millimeter (mm)?

If an object is 334 µm wide, how many mm wide is it?

If we have one liter of a solution, how many milliliters (ml) is that?

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