Chapter 1 - Introduction to Life Science

Section 1 - What is Science?


  Science is a way of learning about the natural world. Scientists use skills such as observing, inferring, predicting, classifying, and making models to learn more about the world. Observing means using one or more of your senses to gather information. Your senses include sight, hearing touch, taste, and smell. Observations can be either quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative observations deal with a number, or amount. Seeing that you have eight new e-mails in your inbox is a quantitative observation. Qualitative observations, on the other hand, deal with descriptions that cannot be expressed in numbers. Noticing that a bike is blue and that a grape tastes sour are qualitative observations.

  When you explain or interpret the things you observe, you are inferring, or making an inference. Making an inference doesn't mean guessing wildly. Inferences are based on reasoning from what you already know. Predicting means making a forecast of what will happen in the future based on past experience or evidence. While inferences are attempts to explain what is happening or has happened, predictions are forecasts, or what will happen.

  Classifying is the process of grouping together items that are alike in some way. You classify objects and information all the time. Classifying things helps you to stay organized so you can easily find and use them later.

  Making models involves creating representations of complex objects or processes. Models help people study and understand things that are complex or that can't be observed directly. Using a model allows scientists to share information that would otherwise be difficult to explain. Models include diagrams and physical objects, such as globes and movie sets. Some models are computer-generated, like the ones architects use to design new buildings. Models are only representations of a real object or process. Therefore, some information may be missing from a model.

  Life science is the study of living things. Life science is also known as biology. Scientists who study living things are called biologists. If you are interested in living things, you might one day enjoy working in life science.




Section 2 - Scientific Inquiry


  Thinking and questioning can be the start of the scientific inquiry process. Scientific inquiry refers to the diverse ways in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on evidence they gather. Scientific inquiry often begins with a problem or questions about an observation. Questions come from experiences you have and from observations and inferences you make. A scientific question is one that can be answered by making observations and gathering evidence.

  A hypothesis is a possible explanation for a set of observations or answer to a scientific question. In science, a hypothesis must be testable. This means that researchers must be able to carry out investigations and gather evidence that will either support or disprove the hypothesis.

  A scientist designs an experiment to test a hypothesis. All factors that can change in an experiment are called variables. The variable that is purposely changed to test a hypothesis is called the manipulated variable (also called the independent variable). The factor that may change in response to the manipulated variable is called the responding variable (also called the dependent variable). All other variables must be exactly the same. An experiment in which only one variable is manipulated at a time is called a controlled experiment. A well-designed experiment has clear operational definitions. An operational definition is a statement that describes how to measure a particular variable or define a particular term.

  A controlled experiment produces data. Data are facts, figures, and other evidence gathered through observations. Data tables and graphs are organized ways of presenting data. After gathering and interpreting data, a scientist draws conclusions about the hypothesis. A conclusion is a summary of what a scientists has learned from an experiment.

  An important part of the scientific inquiry process is communicating the results. Communicating is the sharing of ideas and experimental findings with others through writing and speaking.

  Successful scientists possess certain important attitudes, or habits of mind, including curiosity, honesty, open-mindedness, skepticism, and creativity. An important attitude is curiosity. Successful scientists are eager to learn. Good scientists always report their results truthfully. Scientists need to be open-minded, or capable of accepting different ideas. Openmindedness should always be balanced by skepticism, which is an attitude of doubt. When a problem arises scientists use creativity to find a solution. Creativity means coming up with inventive ways to solve problems or produce new things.




Section 3 - Understanding Technology


  Artificial legs are examples of technology. But technology includes more than modern inventions. Technology is how people change the world around them to meet their needs or to solve practical problems. The goal of technology is to improve the way people live. For example, a refrigerator improves people's lives by making food stay fresh longer.

  Science and technology are not the same thing. Science is the study of the natural world to understand how it functions. Technology, on the other hand, changes, or modifies, the natural world to meet human needs or solve problems. An engineer is a person who is trained to use both technological and scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. Often, advances in science and technology depend on one another.

  You might think that technology always benefits people. However, technology can have both positive and negative consequences for individual people and for society as a whole. For example, pesticides are chemicals that kill insects, including those that eat crops. Pesticides enable farmers to produce more crops. However, humans and other living things can sometimes be harmed by pesticides.




Section 4 - Safety in the Science Laboratory


  Good preparation helps you stay safe when doing science activities. Preparing for a lab should begin the day before you will perform the lab. It is important to read through the procedure carefully and make sure you understand all the directions. Also, review the general safety guidelines in Appendix A. When you perform the lab, always follow your teacher 's instructions and the textbook directions exactly. Labs and activities in this textbook include safety symbols. These symbols alert you to possible dangers in performing the lab and remind you to work carefully. The symbols are explained in Appendix A.

  When you have completed the lab, be sure to clean up the work area. Follow your teacher's instructions about proper disposal of wastes. Finally, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after working in the laboratory.

  Some investigations will be done in the "field.” The field can be any outdoor area, such as a forest, park, or schoolyard. Just as in the laboratory, good preparation helps you stay safe when doing science activities in the field. There can be many safety hazards outdoors, including severe weather, traffic, wild animals, or poisonous plants. Planning may help you avoid some hazards. Whenever you do field work, always tell an adult where you will be. Never carry out a field investigation alone.

  At any time, an accident can occur in the lab. When any accident occurs, no matter how minor, notify your teacher immediately. Then, listen to your teacher's directions and carry them out quickly. Make sure you know the location and proper use of all the emergency equipment in your lab room. Knowing safety and first aid procedures beforehand will prepare you to handle accidents properly.



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