The term ‘science’ comes from the Latin Scientia, which means ‘a knowledge based on demonstrable and reproducible data’. Reproducible data is used by scientists to develop theories and laws to explain and describe phenomena. Theories provide a coherent understanding of a wide range of phenomena. A law is usually a statement that can be expressed as a mathematical relationship. It describes phenomena in nature, with no exceptions, at a point in time. Testing scientific theories drives scientific breakthroughs and questions current understandings.
Students examine how complex models and theories often require a wide range of evidence, which impacts on society and the environment. In this module, students engage in practical and secondary investigations that are related to major theories or laws and their application.
Introduction to Scientific Theories and Laws
Inquiry question 1: What are the differences and similarities between scientific theories and laws?
Comparing theories and laws
- Compare the characteristics of theories and law
- TED ed blog about theories and laws ad a quick video.
- Scientific terminology– confusing scientific vocabulary simplified.
Investigate Laws and theories
1. The law of conservation of mass ( primary data)
Investigate the law of conservation of mass ( primary data) and a click view video part D that talks about the discovery of atoms, including many experiment demonstrations.
2. The theory of plate tectonics ( secondary data)
Investigate the theory of plate tectonics ( secondary data) and a click view video about the discovery of plate tectonics and more information from the Geological Society.
Development of a Theory
Inquiry question 2: What leads to a theory being developed?
“Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words
Theories are accepted with supporting evidence
Gather secondary-sourced data to investigate the supporting evidence and development of theories, including but not limited to;
- Germ theory
- germ theory of disease, information and quiz
- more about the germ theory with video links and questions
- timeline of infectious diseases
- summary of what led to the development of the germ theory.
- Understanding Disease Through History a click view video.https://clickv.ie/w/oEpj
2. Oxygen theory of combustion
- Discovering oxygen
- Click view video resources: History of the Atom ( part 9-10)https://clickv.ie/w/9Epj
Theories can be disproven with new evidence
A good introduction video from YOUTUBE summarises some ways that various theories have been disproven including the Phlogiston theory, Steady state theory, Spontaneous generation and the Contracting Earth model.
Gather secondary-sourced data to investigate how aspects of a theory can be disproved through the collection of evidence, including;
- Geocentric theory
- Geocentric Theory
- moving from the geocentric to the heliocentric theory, a NASA resource.
- and our place in space from click view( chapter 3 and 4) https://clickv.ie/w/yEpj
2. Theory of inherited characteristics
- Theory of Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics
- and the History of Evolution Theory( chap 2-4) https://clickv.ie/w/5Epj
3. Daltons atomic theory
- Dalton’s atomic theory
- click view videoes from Atoms and Molecules ( chapter 1) https://clickv.ie/w/7Epj and History of the Atom( chapter 11) https://clickv.ie/w/9Epj
4. Steady-state theory of the universe
- Steady State Theory of the Universe
- Origin of Everything: Hot Bang or Ageless Universe? NASA
- Birth of the big bang theory is an article by COSMOS magazine on how we came to understand the universe had a finite beginning in a massive explosion.
Development of Laws
Inquiry question 3: What leads to the acceptance of a scientific law?
Secondary data can support scientific laws
Gather secondary-sourced data to investigate and assess the evidence that supports scientific laws, including but not limited to:
1.Newton’s Second Law of motion ( physics)
- Newton’s Second Law of Motion and more detail including tutorials
- Newton’s second law from science by doing takes you to a simulation
- an experiential simulation that produces graphs to help you understand the relationship between force, mass and acceleration.
2.Avogadro’s law (chemistry)
- Avogadro’s Law and more detail including tutorial from the Khan Academy and lessons and interactives from CK-12
3.Law of superposition ( Earth science)
- Law of superposition a video tutorial here( Bozeman Science)
4. Mendel’s Law of dominance ( biology)
- Mendel’s Law of Dominance an additional quick tutorial summary
- a fun interactive were you can build your own animal while learning about the Law of dominance.
Experiment results can be predicted using scientific laws
Design and collect primary data to show that results can be predicted by laws, including but not limited to:
2. Law of conservation of energy
Law of conservation of energy, see below for more investigations relevant to different fields of science.
Application of Theories and Laws in Science
Inquiry question 4: How are theories and laws used in science?
Investigating the law of conservation of energy
Video introduction: An excellent series called Shedding light on energy from Clickview.This series of 3 clips contains lots of information and practical examples from all disciplines of science relating to energy and energy transformations.
Investigate how the law of conservation of energy is applied in different science disciplines through primary and secondary-source research, including but not limited to;
- Conservation of Energy in Chemical Reactions
- Simulation of energy and reactions ( Scootle resource)
- getting work from heat in an internal combustion engine from science by doing.
- pendulum example, demonstrating energy conservation
- worked example and animation from the physic classroom website
- energy conservation simulation of a skateboard from Phet
- Human Biology( more on the conservation of mass than energy, however, the energy would be transferred to chemical bonds that are broken and reformed)
Earth and environmental science
- Earth and Environmental Science, food webs and energy
- Ecosystem energy from science by doing.
- The earth as a system, a science by doing resource- investigating the inputs and outputs of energy on earth
Demonstrate, using evidence and examples, how diverse phenomena have been unified into specific theories, for example:
Unifying the conservation of law and mass
Gather secondary-sourced data to investigate how scientific investigations of nuclear reactions and decay changed the way in which the law of conservation of mass and law of conservation of energy is interpreted.
- Einstein’s miracle year and the formulation of E=mc² a TED-ed video.
- Science by doing information on E=mc² from the year 10 energy book.