Introduction to Scientific Method

Introduction to Scientific Method

by Jonathan Lau

“Science is more than a body of knowledge, it’s a way of thinking.”
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

– Carl Sagan

When we were small, shortly after being born into this world, we often asked “why?” or “how?” to understand things around us. In other words, from our youth, we observed our surroundings, our families, and asked questions or formed a “hypothesis”, a fancy word derived from Greek “hypo-” meaning “under” and “-thesis” meaning “placing”, and together gives the meaning of “foundation”. This is a common human experience, to want to understand the foundation of our observable universe, the place we live in.

For example, you observe a newborn being introduced to you, maybe this is your younger sibling or cousin, and then you may ask an elder “where do babies come from?” This baby came out of seemingly nowhere. The elder may give you a story about a bird carrying the baby from the baby factory, but you feel skepticism, another word for feeling doubtfulness. A month ago, you remembered observing the mother of the newborn having a round, protruding belly. You now feel curious about that belly and you take a look at the mother’s abdomen, which is now surprisingly smaller! You say to that story-telling elder “I actually think babies come from the bellies of mothers!” and the elder looks surprised. You feel the urge to ask the mother about her belly and baby, and she admits she was at the hospital for labour and delivery, the birthing of her child. Now even more curious, you ask if the baby was once inside her belly, which made it so round and big in the past. The mother says yes. You go on to ask your own mother, your grandma, your aunties and they all say yes to your hypothesis. Over time, you observe more once round-bellied mothers showing off their newborns to you, and you also observe that their bellies shrunk after giving birth. You ask your friends Mary, Michael, and Maxine if they observed other mothers’ bellies shrinking after babies show up and they have the same observations as you! You now confidently confirm that babies do in fact come from mothers’ bellies, and not from some bird delivery service.

How strange and wondrous you think to yourself. You now have a million other questions to ask, and you discuss them with your friends, like “if mom grows the baby, what are fathers for?”, “how does the baby grow inside the belly?”, “does the baby grow where food gets digested? If so, why doesn’t the baby get digested?”, or “Is there a separate organ for the growth of the baby?”. You and your friends come up all sorts of explanations and you want to know if these explanations are right or wrong. You now think to yourself, “My friends and I did all of this work to collect this evidence, let’s write it all down for other kids to know!” You type it all up and post it to social media to share with your friends. Your classmate, Marcus, comments that he doesn’t agree with your findings because his mother’s belly did not shrink after his little sister was born. You find that a bit funny, and form new hypotheses to explain why his mother’s belly didn’t shrink. You respond with “maybe it takes a while for the belly to shrink”, “try looking again in a week”, but you don’t say “maybe your mom is overweight” – that would be rude to say publicly, perhaps say that in private.
Congratulations, you are now thinking like a (respectful) scientist!

“Wah? Wait, mi cyah believe it! It can’t be that easy! Cho man!”

Let me justify my claim. In that example, you:
(1) observed something, became curious about it, and started asking questions;
(2) heard an answer and felt skeptical about that answer;
(3) you formed a hypothesis to provide an alternative explanation;
(4) took action to gain more evidence to support or oppose your hypothesis;
(5) developed a method for confirming the evidence;
(6) worked with your friends to confirm the evidence;
(7) developed confidence in your hypothesis through evidence;
(8) generated even more curiosity, and started a discussion amongst you and your friends;
(9) documented your findings for others to see for themselves and either agree or be skeptical and give their own criticisms of your evidence; and
(10) responded to their criticisms, which affects how confidently you believe your evidence.

Science does have a lot of facts to memorize, especially from textbooks, but the nature of Science is not memorization. Rather, the scientific method is used to fulfill that curiosity inside all of us. We take for granted the facts we memorize, but understand that it was another human being, or teams of humans just like us, that worked very hard to prove them. However, scientific facts only stay facts if other people can repeatedly confirm they get the same results, no matter if they live in Jamaica, Haiti, Canada, China, or Antarctica! Most importantly, scientific findings must stand the test of time – does the evidence discovered centuries ago still remain true today? If I looked through a telescope pointed at Jupiter, would I still see its four moons that the father of Physics, Galileo Galilei, discovered 400 years ago? Yes, I would, except I would expect to see 63 more known smaller moons orbiting Jupiter discovered by others since then, meaning there could be more moons left to discover! This is the progress of science– discovering truth by building on previous discoveries.

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
– Isaac Newton, 1676

Scientific facts would be questioned if people got different conflicting results, giving people more reason to be skeptical. The scientific method is by no means perfect as some people lie about their evidence, some evidence never gets validated by other teams of scientists around the world, some experiments are just badly designed, or sometimes politics gets involved. However, right now, the scientific method is the best way for humankind to systematically understand the observable universe and reliably produce facts for the expansion of our knowledge. If scientists ever make a mistake, the great thing is that there will always be another group of scientists to challenge them. This keeps the pursuit of truth pure and exposed, and any flaws will eventually be detected by someone skeptical – perhaps it will be you!

Alginate Worms

The alginate worms are a fun way to explore polymers. They are slimy but edible. Make sure to wash your hands and clean all the needed materials before starting this experiment in your kitchen!

You’ll need:

2.4 g of sodium alginate
5 g calcium chloride
a few drops of food coloring
tap water
measuring cup (1 cup)
2 bowls
1 syringe

Prepare the Alginate solution

  1. Place a cup of water and a few drops of food coloring in a bowl.
  2. Slowly add the alginate powder in the bowl of water. Using a hand mixer mix thoroughly.
  3. Set aside the alginate solution for an hour to remove the bubbles from solution.

Prepare the Calcium bath

  1. Place 2 cups of water in a bowl.
  2. Add the calcium chloride to the bowl and stir to dissolve.

Make the Alginate Worms

  1. Draw the alginate solution into the syringe.
  2. Squirt the alginate solution into the calcium bath
  3. Start playing with your edible alginate worms

How are the Worms Formed?

Sodium alginate is a polymer: a large molecule made of many identical smaller molecules. Sodium alginate in solution has sodium and alginate ions. We add it to a solution of calcium chloride, which contains calcium and chloride ions. Calcium attaches to alginate molecules to make calcium alginate, an insoluble gel. A slimy (but edible) worm! Some acid reflux medicines (e.g Gaviscon) use calcium alginate to form a protective gel in your tummy!Aren’t polymers amazing?

Pueblo Science hosts “Curious Kids Love Science!” at the University of Toronto

Pueblo Science hosts “Curious Kids Love Science!” at the University of Toronto

On Sunday January 22, Pueblo Science will be hosting its fourth “Curious Kids Love Science!” event in collaboration with the University of Toronto’s Family Sundays program at Hart House. The theme for this year’s event is Polymers, where kids will participate in hands-on science activities to learn about polymers. Activities will include slime making, DNA extraction and even molecular gastronomy. U of T students will be volunteering their time on this wintery Sunday morning to bring joy, excitement to children of U of T families, while teaching them about what polymers are, where we find them, and how we use them.

Read full  article at Marketwired

Science Trick: Blue Bottle

Science Trick: Blue Bottle

On shaking: it is BLUE!. . . . On standing it is COLORLESS! Here is why this happens…


What is in the solution?

  • Sodium hydroxide – makes the solution basic
  • Glucose acts as a reducing agent (loses electron)
  • Methylene blue – acts as an indicator for the reaction


What is happening?

Glucose is a reducing agent and in basic solution will reduce methylene blue to a colourless form.

Shaking the solution admits oxygen which will re-oxidise the methylene blue back to the blue form.

Science Trick: Traffic Light Reaction

Science Trick: Traffic Light Reaction

Why does the solution turn red, yellow and green? Here is a quick demonstration!


What is in the solution?

  • Sodium hydroxide – makes the solution basic
  • Glucose – acts as a reducing agent (loses electron)
  • Indigo carmine – indicator for the reaction


What is happening?

  • Indigo carmine can exist in oxidised (loss of electron ), reduced (gain of electron) and intermediate forms.
  • Each form has a slightly different structure which means that each structure absorbs a different frequency of light; hence the three different colours – red, yellow and green.


Charity Wants to Inspire a Love of Science in Students, and to Equip Communities

Charity Wants to Inspire a Love of Science in Students, and to Equip Communities

Makeshift devices that pick up marshmallows, gaseous substances overflowing, a spinning robot — the little projects that make kids ooh and ahh — if that was the kind of science class you were exposed to.
What brings science lessons to life are enthusiastic teachers and hands-on experiments, but labs and activities require resources, and not all neighbourhoods have them.

Full story at Start Up Toronto

Cardboard Hydraulic Arm

Cardboard Hydraulic Arm

We will introduce fluid power and then you can construct your very own mechanical arm from a few simple materials! The overall construction of the mechanical arm is separated into several parts, each generating a different type of motion. Tips for constructing the mechanical arm and advice for troubleshooting common issues are included in Appendix C. Printable cardboard templates are included in Appendix D.

  • In Part 1, you will build a system that uses fluid power to generate horizontal motion for opening and closing a scoop attached to the mechanical arm.
  • In Part 2, you will build a system that uses fluid power to generate rotational motion for swinging the mechanical arm left and right.
  • In Part 3, you will build a system that uses fluid power to generate vertical motion for lifting and dropping the mechanical arm.
  • In Part 4, you will integrate the three systems you have built to create a working mechanical arm.

What is a fluid?
A fluid is any substance that flows and deforms to take on the shape of the container holding the fluid. Every day examples of fluids include the water you drink and the air you breathe. In general, most liquids and gases can be classified as fluids. The ability of a substance to resist flowing is known as its viscosity. The viscosity of a substance is determined by its molecular structure, which dictates the amount of internal friction experienced by the substance during motion. Honey is more viscous than water, which is why honey flows much more slowly than water. Most solids cannot be classified as fluids because they have very high viscosities.

What is pressure?
The molecules in a fluid are constantly in motion, and this motion generates forces on the surfaces enclosing the fluid. Pressure describes the amount of force per unit area felt by the surface, in units of Pascals (Pa). In a container, the pressure generated is equally distributed over the inner surface of the container.

How is pressure increased or decreased?
Adding fluid to a container will increase the pressure in the container since there are more fluid molecules moving around in the same container. The molecules are more crowded in the container, and bump into the container walls more frequently, generating more force and pressure. Similarly, removing fluid from a container will decrease the pressure in the container since there are less fluid molecules moving in the container. Fewer molecules are available to bump into the container walls, so less pressure is generated inside the container.

What happens to fluids during compression?
When a gas is compressed, the same number of molecules is pushed into a smaller space. This means there is less empty space in the container so the gas molecules will bump into the walls more often, generating more pressure. In order to reduce the pressure, the gas will try to find a way to escape from the container to re-expand.

In a liquid, however, the molecules are already more densely packed than the molecules in a gas. This means it will be very difficult to compress the liquid any further, which is why liquids can be considered incompressible in many cases.

What types of fluid powered systems exist?
The two main types of fluid powered systems are categorized based on the type of fluid used. A pneumatic system uses pressurized or compressed gas to produce mechanical motion. When the gases in a pneumatic system are replaced with liquids, such as water or oil, the system is called a hydraulic system. Both pneumatics and hydraulics take advantage of the potential energy generated from fluid pressure during compression to do work.

Does it matter whether you use pneumatics or hydraulics?
Pneumatic systems are generally quite safe and reliable. Oxygen is commonly pressurized for use in pneumatic systems, and so a leak in the system should not majorly impact the surrounding environment. Since gases readily expand, minor leaks in a pneumatic system do not significantly affect the system’s performance. Hydraulic systems are generally more precise due to liquid incompressibility and the components of the system are often kept well lubricated by the liquid used. Water and oil are typically used in hydraulic systems.

Templates and Procedures

Have fun building your own cardboard hydraulic arm! Please send us photos of you and your class building it :

Give so they can LEARN

Give so they can LEARN

Give So They Can Learn

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Donation Total: $20

Noemi and Cory are 8-year-old girls from a remote indigenous community in Mindanao, Philippines. Their school has a board, a chalk a few books and whatever the teacher can find in the community. For 20$ you can enhance the learning experience of 20 kids like Noemi and Cory with a kit to teach them about clean water and renewable energy. Pueblo Science’s goal is to inspire children to turn their childhood curiosity into a passion for lifelong learning and discovery that could break them out of the cycle of poverty.

Contributions from generous donors allowed a team of Pueblo Science and Ateneo de Davao volunteers to spend a day with Noemi, Cory and their school mates to play and learn science. Your donations will help us go back to Noemi and Cory’s village in 2018 and provide them with the much needed resources and learning experience!

Our goal (1000$) will allow us to reach two indigenous community villages. Thank you for your generosity.