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Chapter 1: The Nature of Science


Section 1.1: Earth Science

The Scope of Earth Science

Includes five areas of study- astronomy, meteorology, geology, oceanography, and environmental science

Astronomy- the study of objects beyond Earth's atmosphere

Telescopes and technology allow us to see more than early history

Meteorology- the study of the forces and processes that cause the atmosphere to change and produce weather

How weather influences climate

Geology- the study of the materials that make up Earth, the processes that form and change these materials, and the history of the planet and its life-forms since its origin

Identify rocks & fossils, glacial movements, Earth's 4.6 billion year history, how forces change our planet

Oceanography- the study of Earth's oceans, which cover nearly 3/4's of the planet

Study creatures, physical & chemical features, and observe various processes in the bodies of water

Environmental Science- the study of the interactions of organisms and their surroundings

How organisms impact the environment both positive/negative (natural resources, effects of pollution, alternative energy sources, and impact of humans on the atmosphere

Subspecialties- the study of  our planet is a broad endeavor, each of the five areas of Earth science have subspecialties (climatology, paleontology, environmental chemistry)

Earth's Systems

Four main systems: geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere.  All interact with each other

Geosphere- area from the surface of Earth down to its center

3 main parts:

Crust: rigid outer shell of Earth (continental and oceanic); Mantle: much different than crust, temperatures from 100ºC-4000ºC; Core: temperature may reach 7000ºC

Atmosphere- the blanket of gases that surrounds our planet

78% Nitrogen & 21% Oxygen, remaining 1% includes water vapor/argon/carbon dioxide, other trace gases

Hydrosphere- all the water on Earth, including the atmosphere

About 97% salt water, remaining 3% fresh water; cryosphere- the region of permanently frozen water

Biosphere- all organisms on Earth as well as the environments in which they live

All life-forms require interaction with at least one of the other systems to survive

All spheres are interconnected and interdependent (example: todays atmosphere from past)


The application of scientific discoveries to solve society's needs and problems

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Section 1.2: Methods of Scientists

Scientists use scientific methods to structure experiments and investigations.

The Nature of Scientific Investigations

No matter where scientists work they use similar methods to gather data and communicate information. Scientific methods- a series of problem-solving procedures that help scientists conduct experiments. Hypothesis- a testable explanation of a situation that can be supported or disproved by careful procedures. Not rigid.


An organized procedure that involves making observations and measurements to test a hypothesis. Qualitative data (descriptive), and Quantitativ data (numerical).

Scientific experiments test one changeable factor at a time: the variable.

Independent variable- the factor that is changed by the experimenter. Dependent variable- a factor that if affected by changes in the independent variable. Constants: factors that do not change during an experiment. Control- part of experiment in which nothing is changed, used for comparison.


Involves observation and collecting data but does not include a control. Used when a full experiment is not possible.


Observe safety symbols

Analysis and Conclusions

Data recorded; graphs, tables, and charts used to display data. A conclusion is drawn free of bias (expectations or beliefs).


Includes  a number and a unit of measure. Le Systeme International d'Unites (SI)- a modern version of the metric system.  Based on the number 10.


Standard SI unit is meter (m). 1/100th of meter is centimeter (cm), millimeter (mm) 1/10 of cm. One kilometer (km) has 1000 meters.


The amount of matter in an object. Determined by number and types of atoms that make up an object. SI unit is kilogram (kg).


A measure of gravitational force on an object. Weight varies with location. Unit of force, SI unit is the newton (N).

Area and Volume

Area is amount of surface included within a set of boundaries; expressed in squae units of length such as square meters.

Volume is the amount of space occupied  by an object. SI unit is derived from unit of length. Solid object is cubic meter, liquid is milliliters (mL) or liter (L). Can also be cubic centimeters.  1 cubic cm = 1 mL


The amount of matter that occupies a given space. Mass divided by volume grams/cubic cm, g/mL, kg/ cubic meter.


The interval between two events. SI unit is second. Atomic clock uses the element cesium-133,  most accurate; known as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).


Measure of average kinetic energy of the particles that make up a material. Measured in degrees using Celsius (C).  SI unit is kelvin (K).

Scientific Notation

Many numbers are very small. Scientific notation- shorthand in which a number is expresed as a value between 1 and 10 multiplied by a power of 10. This is the number of places the decimal point must shift so that only a single digit remains to the left of the decimal point.

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Section 1.3: Communication in Science

Precise communication is crucial to shae results effectively.

Communicating Results

Many ways to communicate results. Scientist must report their methods and results ethically. Peer review is used to verify results, and keep them free of bias.

Lab Reports

A recording and analysis of the information collected from data that is used to draw conclusions.


Used to easily demonstrate relationships among data sets, as well as represent trends in data.

Line graph: visual display that shows how two variable ae related. Independent variable is plotted on the x-axis, the dependent variable is plotted on the y-axis

Circle graph: used to show a fixed quantity

Bar graphs: used to represent quantitative data using rectangular blocks


Scientific models- an idea picture, a system, or a mathematical expression that represents the concept being explained. May not have all components of a idea, but is a fairly accurate representation.

Models may change with new information.

Theories and Laws

Scientific theory- an explanation bases on many observations during repeated investigations. Only valid if: supported by evidence, consistent with observations, makes predictions that can be tested, is simplest explanation of observations.

Scientific law- a principle that describes the behavior of a natural phenomenon. Events described by a law are observed to be the same every time even though the cause of the law might not be known.

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