Yesterday, I said science was just an approach for understanding and that you probably had lots of questions that the scientific approach could help answer. Were you able to think of any? Did you find yourself wondering “Is this really a good topic for a science fair?”
Let’s talk about that!
It's true: Not all questions are "science-compatible."
Science is great for answering questions that can be investigated by:
Not every one of those four need to apply, but, at least a couple should.
Science isn’t very good at answering questions that have to do with what someone likes or doesn’t like (their preferences; subjective things), or philosophical questions like “why am I here?”
An example of a science-compatible question
“How heavy is the moon?”
Weight will be a measurement and because you can’t put the moon on a scale, you’ll definitely need to do some analyzing – maybe even experimentation and observation.
An example of a “science-incompatible” question
“Why does my sister have such bad taste in music?”
Here are some problems I see:
- What would it mean to measure “bad taste in music”? Will other people agree with your measurements?
- This bad taste in music can be observed, but, if 5 of your friends and 5 of your sister’s friends all observed your sister’s taste in music, would they all come to the same conclusion? If you can’t convince most people of your starting point – that your sister has bad taste in music – you’re going to have an even harder time convincing them you’ve found answers.
- You can’t get very far with experimentation and analysis if people can’t agree on what is being measured or what it is you’ve observing.
So those two were easy. What about all the questions that are in between?
No, seriously - why can't I microwave a 20lbs. turkey?
Above, I mentioned that questions that could be measured, observed, experimented on, and analyzed made good questions for science to answer. So, is my turkey question a good one for a science fair? Come back tomorrow and we’ll try to work that out!