Category: Theories - Bobcat Laboratories
 
Today was an interesting day in class.  We discussed our ideas of what the terms hypothesis, theory, and law mean in regards to how they are used in science.  We started with the word "theory." In everyday usage, it tends to mean an untested idea or opinion.  However, this can be very confusing in science because the word means exactly the opposite.  In science, a theory (e.g., Theory of Plate Tectonics, Atomic Theory, the General Theory of Relativity, or Heliocentrism) refers to a concept that is well supported through extensive and repeated study and testing.  Needless to say, we spent a great deal of our time discussing different scientific theories and how they have been supported by enough evidence to actually be categorized as a scientific theory.

There is a term for an untested idea or opinion, as well, that we spent a large portion of time learning.  That term is "hypothesis." A hypothesis needs has four important parts:
  1. A declarative statement must be made. (i.e., I think it will rain tomorrow...)
  2. Supporting evidence or prior knowledge/understanding. (i.e., ...because it rained today and yesterday.)
  3. Number 1 and Number 2 need to relate to one another. (e.g., it would sound ridiculous to say "I think it will rain tomorrow because I just clipped my dogs's toenails.)
  4. The hypothesis must be a statement with supporting evidence that can be tested through experimentation.


If a hypothesis is not false after being tested over and over and over again, then we as scientists come to accept it as being factual...it can become a "theory."

Finally, we spent a brief amount of time on Scientific Laws.  A scientific law is an attempt to describe the basic nature of the Universe. Some examples include Newton's Laws of Motion, Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion, and the Laws of Thermodynamics. Although a hypothesis can become a theory, theories do not become laws. 

I realize that this may seem like some really heavy stuff for our 5th grade scientists.  However, they were all evry interested and following the concepts quite well.

A homework assignment was given for the weekend. It can be found here.