Inquiry, Analysis, and Problem-Solving

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“Why is the Sky Blue?”

All scientists were once students in school, as you are today. They grew to work in the fields of science because of certain attitudes of the mind. What are these important qualities? How do you train your mind to think like a scientist and become one?

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By Observing and Asking Questions

The process and progress of science begin with “being inquisitive” about what we observe in the world around us. Why is the sky blue? How do we know that the earth is round? Why do we feel hungry? Why do we fall down and not up? All these questions are nothing but an inquiry into science. Only by asking the right questions do we begin to understand the principles of science.

The sky is blue because sunlight is scattered by the earth’s atmosphere and the color blue is scattered the most. A ship sailing away from shore will gradually dip and disappear from sight, indicating the earth is curved. Your stomach sends hunger signals to your brain when there aren’t sufficient nutrients in the digestive system. Gravity makes us fall toward the earth.

Of course, you need to ask these questions of someone, such as your parents or teachers or an older student. Or you may read about it in the library or on the internet. The important attribute of a scientific mind is that it never rests until it has discovered and understood the answer to such questions.

By Analyzing&Problem-Solving

Sometimes, simply asking a question may not give us the desired answer. Why is my potted plant not growing well? Why can’t I connect to the internet? Does saltwater freeze quicker than pure water? Such questions require Analysis – you need to simplify the topic or issue to gain a better understanding.

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It demands “Critical Thinking” and “Creativity” and many actions such as –

  • Evaluating Alternatives and forming a Hypothesis – is the potted plant not growing well because it does not get sufficient sunlight? Or water? Or fertilizer? Is the internet not working because of a fault on my laptop? Or modem? Or is the website not accessible?
  • Collecting and Understanding Data – Alter the amount of sunlight by moving the plant or provide adequate water and make observations of the plant’s growth. Check the laptop and modem for signals. Check if other websites are accessible.
  • Experimenting and Testing – Fill two containers with water, add salt to one container, put both in the freezer, and measure with a stopwatch how long it takes each to freeze.

The end result of detailed analysis and problem-solving is the Conclusion where you understand exactly why something is happening (or not happening) and you can explain it very clearly to yourself and to others.

Check Point

  1. Which of these qualities are essential to working in science?
    1. An inquisitive mind
    2. Creativity
    3. Critical thinking
    4. All of the above
  2. Which of these actions are required while working in science?
    1. Asking the right questions
    2. Evaluating alternatives
    3. Experimenting and testing
    4. All of the above
  3. Does saltwater freeze quicker or pure water? (Do the experiment!)

Answer Key

  1. d) All of the above
  2. d) All of the above
  3. Pure water freezes quicker than salt water. That’s why salt water is put on roads to melt ice.

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