The Universe is Regular and Predictable
Professor James Trefil (author of Science Matters, Why Science?, and 30 other books on science literacy) identified 18 key science concepts every adult should know to be a science literate. We’re here to help make this FUN! It’s all part of our project to increase adult science literacy. Here’s concept #1, explained by Professor James Trefil. We’ll post one each week (more or less).
Professor James Trefil explains:
Drop a ball and it falls. Drop a pencil and it falls. Drop a book and it falls. When you let something go, you expect it to fall, and would be amazed if it didn’t. This is an example of a very deep truth about the universe—that it behaves in regular and predictable ways. It is this fact that makes science possible.
One of the oldest sciences—astronomy—was developed when our ancestors realized that the movements of objects in the sky would repeat themselves over time. The same constellations would be in the sky every spring, the sun would come up behind a particular hill on the shortest day of the year, and so on. The construction of monuments like Stonehenge are embodiments in stone of the principle of regularity.
Discovering regularities in nature requires that we observe the phenomena around us. This is the beginning of science, the first step in the scientific method. Once we understand what the regularities are, we can think about what the universe must be like for us to see those regularities (i.e. we can build theories). We can then use those theories to make predictions about what will happen, then observe nature again to see if the theories are correct. Science begins and ends with observation.