What is science?

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Science is the concerted human effort to understand, or to understand better, the history of the world and how the natural world works, with physical evidence as the basis of that understanding. It is done through of natural phenomena, and/or through that tries to simulate natural processes under controlled conditions.


Consider some examples. An ecologist the territorial behaviors of bluebirds and a geologist examining the of fossils in an outcrop are both scientists making observations in order to find patterns in natural phenomena. They do this outdoors and thus entertain the general public with their . An astrophysicist photographing distant galaxies and a climatologist sifting data from weather balloons are also scientists making observations, but in more discrete settings.


The examples above are observational science, but there is also science. A chemist observing the rates of one chemical at a variety of temperatures and a nuclear physicist recording the results of bombardment of a particular kind of matter with neutrons are both scientists performing experiments to see what patterns emerge. A biologist observing the reaction of a particular tissue to various stimulants is likewise experimenting to find patterns of behavior.


The critical is that all these people are making and recording observations of nature, or of of nature, in order to learn more about how nature, in the broadest sense, works. One of their main goals is to show that old ideas (the ideas of scientists a century ago or perhaps just a year ago) are and that, instead, new ideas may better explain nature.


(Adapted from the online information for students enrolled in the UGA GEOL 1122 Course in the Department of Geology, University of Georgia: http://www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/1122science2.html)