Prentice Hall Exploring Physical Science
The universe around you and inside of you is really a collection of countless mysteries. It is the job of scientists to solve those mysteries. The goal of science is to understand the world around us.
How do scientists go about understanding the world? Like all good detectives, scientists use special methods to determine truths about nature. Such truths are called facts. Here is an example of a fact: The sun is a source of light and heat. But science is more than a list of facts--just as studying science is more than memorizing facts. Jules Henri Poincaré, a famous nineteenth-century French scientist who charted the motions of planets, put it this way: "Science is built up with facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house."
So scientists go further than simply discovering facts. Scientists try to use facts to solve larger mysteries of nature. In this sense, you might think of facts as clues to scientific mysteries. An example of a larger mystery is how the sun produces the heat and light it showers upon the Earth. Another larger mystery is how the relatively few and simple organisms of 3 billion years ago gave rise to the many complex organisms that inhabit the Earth today.
Using facts they have gathered, scientists propose explanations for the events they observe. Then they perform experiments to test their explanations. In the next section of this chapter, you will learn how scientists go about performing experiments and uncovering the mysteries of nature.
- 1999 Prentice-Hall, Inc.
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