# LAB 1 The Scientific Method and Metric System

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1 LAB 1 The Scientific Method and Metric System Overview In this laboratory you will first watch a brief video on the importance of laboratory safety, organization and cleanliness. You will then focus on principles relating to the scientific method and the presentation of experimental data after which you will perform an experiment applying these principles. In the second part of this laboratory you will make a variety of measurements in metric units, and practice converting units within the metric system. Part 1: The Scientific Method The field of science is based on observation and measurement. If a scientist cannot observe and measure something that can be described and repeated by others, then it is not considered to be objective and scientific. In general, the scientific method is a process composed of several steps: 1. observation a certain pattern or phenomenon of interest is observed which leads to a question such as What could explain this observation? 2. hypothesis an educated guess is formulated to explain what might be happening 3. experiment an experiment or study is carefully designed to test the hypothesis, and the resulting data are presented in an appropriate form 4. conclusion the data is concluded to support or not support the hypothesis To illustrate the scientific method, let s consider the following observation: A scientist observes that Compound X appears to increase plant growth, which leads to the question: Does Compound X really increase plant growth? Hypotheses The next step in applying the scientific method to a question such as the one above would be to formulate a hypothesis. For a hypothesis to be a good hypothesis it should be a statement of prediction that: a) uses objective, clearly defined terms b) can be tested experimentally

2 A reasonable hypothesis regarding the observation on the previous page would be: Increasing amounts of compound X correlate with increased plant height. In this case there is nothing vague or subjective in the terminology of the hypothesis, and it can easily be tested experimentally, so it s a good hypothesis. Keep in mind that a good hypothesis is not necessarily correct. If a hypothesis is clear and testable and experimentation disproves it, valuable information has been gained nonetheless. For example, if testing the hypothesis supplement Y is safe for human consumption, it would be very valuable to know if experimental data does not support this hypothesis. Exercise 1A Good vs bad hypotheses Indicate whether or not you think each hypothesis listed on your worksheet is good or bad. Experimentation Experiments are designed to test hypotheses. A simple test of the hypothesis on the previous page would be to plant the seeds of identical pea plants in pots containing the same type of soil, being sure that each pot is exposed to the same temperature, ph, amount of sunlight, water, etc, and measure their height after a 5 week period. The only difference between these plants will be amounts of Compound X given to the plants each day, which are as follows: Pea Plant Compound X per Day (grams) In testing the effects of Compound X on pea plant growth, it is common sense that you should devise an experiment in which multiple pea plants are grown under identical conditions except for 1 difference or variable, the amount of Compound X given to each plant. In this way any differences in plant height should be due to the only condition that varies among the plants, the amount of Compound X. When you design an experiment or a study such as this, it is important to consider all of its components. Even though we design the experiment to contain only 1 variable component, we need to consider all other components including the outcome of the experiment and any 2

3 control experiments that are done. Thus, when designing an experiment you need to account for the following: independent variable the treatment or condition that VARIES among the groups dependent variable the MEASUREMENTS or outcomes recorded at the end of the experiment standardized variables all other factors or conditions in the experiment that must be kept the same (e.g., type of soil, amount of water, amount of sunlight) so their influence on the dependent variable remains constant (i.e., we want to measure the effect of the independent variable only) experimental groups/treatments the subjects (e.g., plants) that receive the different treatments control group/treatment the subjects that receive NO treatment, i.e., the independent variable is eliminated (set to zero ) or set to a background or default level (NOTE: control treatments for independent variables such as temperature and ph that cannot be eliminated are generally at a background level such as room temperature or ph = 7) Repetition is also important for an experimental result to be convincing. There needs to be a sufficient number of subjects and repetitions of the experiment. For example, to make this experiment more convincing multiple plants would be tested at each level of the independent variable and it would be repeated multiple times. Data Collection & Presentation Upon completion of an experiment, the results need to be collected or measured, and presented in an appropriate format. For our sample experiment, after 5 weeks the height of the pea plants is measured and the following data are collected: Pea Plant Compound X per Day (grams) Height of Plant (centimeters)

4 plant height (cm) plant height (cm) Now that you have the raw data for the experiment, it is important to present it in a form that is easy to interpret. Frequently this will be in the form of a table, chart or graph. The data above are presented in a table, however the overall results will be easier to interpret if presented in a graph. There are many ways to present data graphically, but the two most common types of graphs are line graphs and bar graphs. When graphing data in this way, it is customary to place the independent variable on the X-axis (horizontal) and the dependent variable on the Y-axis (vertical). The independent variable in this experiment is the amount of Compound X added and the dependent variable is the height of pea plants after 5 weeks. Below are the Compound X data presented in a line graph on the left and a bar graph on the right: grams of Compound X added grams of Compound X added Which type of graph is best for this data? It depends on the nature of the independent variable on the X-axis. If the independent variable is continuous (i.e., there are values for the independent variable that fall between those actually tested), then a line graph would be appropriate. This would be the case if the independent variable covered a range of values for time, temperature, distance, weight, or volume for example. In our example, the grams of Compound X is clearly a continuous variable for which there are values in between those tested, therefore a line graph is appropriate. By drawing a line or curve through the points, you can clearly estimate what the in between values are likely to be, something you cannot do as easily with a bar graph. If the independent variable is discontinuous (i.e., there are no values between those tested), then a bar graph would be appropriate. If you wanted to graph the average height of students at each table in the lab (tables 1 through 6), the independent variable is the specific table. Even though we label each table with a number, there are no in between values, there are only tables 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, that s it! So in this case a bar graph would be appropriate. 4

6 Part 2: The Metric System of Measurement The English system of measurement is what we are all most familiar with (e.g., pounds, inches, gallons), very few countries still use it to any significant degree (United States, Myanmar and Liberia). Not even England still uses it! The problem is converting units within the English system, which is rather awkward since there is no consistent pattern in the relationship of one unit to another (12 inches per foot, 16 ounces per pound, four quarts per gallon, etc ). Most countries in the world, including the entire scientific community, have adopted a much easier system to work with called the Metric System of Measurement. The advantage of the metric system of measurement is twofold: 1) there is a single, basic unit for each type of measurement (meter, liter, gram, ºC) and 2) each basic unit can use prefixes that are based on powers of 10 making conversions much easier. Once you learn the basic units and the multiples of 10 associated with each prefix, you will have the entire system mastered. Basic Units of the Metric System LENGTH - The basic unit of length in the metric system is the meter, abbreviated by the single letter m. A meter was originally calculated to be one ten-millionth of the distance from the north pole to the equator, and is ~3 inches longer than a yard. VOLUME The basic unit of volume in the metric system is the liter, abbreviated by the single letter l or L. A liter is defined as the volume of a box that is 1/10 of a meter on each side. A liter is just a little bit larger than a quart (1 liter = quarts) MASS The basic unit of mass in the metric system is the gram, abbreviated by the single letter g. A gram is defined as the mass of a volume of water that is 1/1000 th of a liter. [Note: 1/1000 th of a liter = 1 milliliter = 1 cubic centimeter = 1 cm 3 = 1 cc). TEMPERATURE The basic unit of temperature in the metric system is a degree Celsius (ºC). Water freezes at 0 ºC and boils at 100 ºC. Prefixes used in the Metric System Unlike the English System, the metric system is based on the meter (m), liter (L or l) and gram (g), and several prefixes that denote various multiples of these units. Specifically, each basic unit can be modified with a prefix indicating a particular multiple of 10 of that unit. Here are the more commonly used prefixes and what they mean: mega kilo BASIC deci centi milli micro nano (M) (k) UNIT (d) (c) (m) (µ) (n)

7 Mega (M) = 10 6 = 1,000,000 kilo (k) = 10 3 = 1,000 no prefix = 10 0 = 1 deci (d) = 10-1 = 1/10 (or 0.1) centi (c) = 10-2 = 1/100 (or 0.01) milli (m) = 10-3 = 1/1,000 (or 0.001) micro (µ) = 10-6 = 1/1,000,000 (or ) nano (n) = 10-9 = 1/1,000,000,000 (or ) Here is how simple the metric system is using the basic units and the prefixes: What is one thousandth of a meter? a millimeter (mm) What is one one-millionth of a liter? a microliter ( l) What is 1,000 grams? a kilogram (kg) Let us now examine these units more closely by using them to make actual measurements and converting from one metric unit to another. Exercise 2A Measuring distance 1. Obtain a wooden meter stick. If you look on the back of the meter stick, one meter is approximately 39 inches or about 3 inches longer than one yard (36 inches). Using the meter stick, estimate the size of the laboratory by measuring its width and length to the nearest meter. 2. Observe that the meter is divided into 100 equal units called centimeters. A centimeter is about the width of a small finger. Using the meter stick, estimate the dimensions of a regular piece of notebook paper to the nearest centimeter. 3. How tall are you? Go over to the medical weight and height scale to measure how tall you are to the nearest centimeter. 4. Next, obtain a small plastic metric rule. Observe that each centimeter is divided into 10 small units called millimeters. A millimeter is about the thickness of a fingernail. Using the small plastic ruler, estimate the diameter of a hole on a regular piece of notebook paper to the nearest millimeter. What are some other real-world examples of metric units of length? One micrometer (µm) is 1/1,000 th the size of a millimeter or 1/1,000,000 th of a meter. When you observe a cheek cell under the microscope in a future lab, it is about 40 µm in diameter. Typical bacteria are about 5-10 µm in diameter. One nanometer (nm) is 1/1,000 th the size of a micrometer or 1/1,000,000,000 th of a meter. Objects this small are far too tiny to observe even in a light microscope. If you line up five water molecules side-by-side, the length would be about 1 nanometer. 7

9 Exercise 2C Measuring mass A balance scale is used to measure the mass of a sample in grams (g). 1. Place an empty 50 ml graduated cylinder on the balance and determine its mass in grams. 2. Next, fill the graduated cylinder with 50 ml of water and measure the mass of both the cylinder and the water. From this value subtract the mass of the cylinder to get the mass of the water. By definition, one gram is the mass of exactly 1.0 ml of water, thus 50 ml of water has a mass of 50.0 grams. How far off was your measured mass from the true mass of 50 ml of water? 3. Next, take a large paper clip and place it on the balance and determine its mass in grams. Exercise 2D Measuring temperature The metric unit for temperature is ºCelsius (ºC). Water freezes at 0 ºC and boils at 100 ºC. Note that this is much easier to remember than the corresponding values of 32 ºF and 212 ºF. 1. Use a thermometer to measure the following in degrees Celsius: A) the ambient temperature of the lab B) a bucket of ice water C) a beaker of boiling water 2. Convert the temperatures on your worksheet from ºC to ºF or ºF to ºC with the following formulas: ºC = 5/9 x (ºF - 32) ºF = (9/5 x ºC)

10 Converting Units within the Metric System Once you are familiar with the units and prefixes in the metric system, converting from one unit to another requires two simple steps: 1) divide the value associated with the prefix of the original unit by the prefix of the unit you are converting to 2) multiply this value by the number in front of the original unit To illustrate this let s look at an example: 2.4 kg = mg In this case you re converting from kilograms to milligrams. Since the prefix kilo- refers to 1000 and the prefix milli- refers to 1/1000 or (see page 7), divide 1000 by This gives a value of 1,000,000 which is multiplied by 2.4 to get the mass in milligrams: 2.4 kg = 2.4 x 1,000,000 mg = 2,400,000 mg You may find it simpler to associate each metric prefix with an exponential number. With this approach kilo- refers to 10 3 and milli- refers to 10-3, so 10 3 /10-3 equals 10 6 (when dividing exponential numbers simply subtract the first exponent minus the second), and thus: 2.4 kg = 2.4 x 10 6 mg = 2,400,000 mg Whether or not you represent your answer as an exponential number is up to you, either way the values are the same. To ensure that you ve done the problem correctly, remember that any given distance, mass or volume should contain more of a smaller unit and less of a larger unit. This is simply common sense if you think about it. As you can see in the example above, there are a lot more of the smaller milligrams than there are the larger kilograms, even though both represent the exact same mass. So each time you do a metric conversion look at your answer to be sure that you have more of the smaller unit and less of the larger unit. One more thing to remember is that a basic unit without a prefix (m, g or l) is one or 10 0 of that unit. Here are a couple more examples just to be sure everything is clear: 643 m = km 1 divided by 1000 (kilo-) = x 643 = km 50 ml = l 10-3 (milli-) divided by 10 0 = 10-3 x 50 = 5.0 x 10-2 l Exercise 2E Metric Conversions Complete the metric conversions on your worksheet. 10

12 What is your control in this experiment? What is the independent variable? What is the dependent variable? State your conclusion addressing whether or not the data support your original hypothesis: Exercise 2A Measurement of distance Laboratory width: m Laboratory length: m Calculate approximate area: width m x length m = m 2 Paper width: cm Paper length: cm Calculate approximate area: width cm x length cm = cm 2 Paper hole diameter: mm Your height: cm, which is equal to m Indicate which metric unit of length you would use to measure the following: length of a fork width of a plant cell size of a small pea height of a refrigerator diameter of an apple length of your car distance to the beach size of a dust particle Exercise 2B Measurement of volume Volume of fluid in Beaker A = ml Volume of fluid in Test Tube B = ml

13 Exercise 2C Measurement of mass Mass of Graduated Cylinder = g Mass of Graduated Cylinder with 50 ml of water = g Mass of 50 ml of water: g Difference between calculated and actual mass of 50 ml of water: Mass of 1 ml of water based on your measurements: g/50 ml = g/ml Mass of Large Paper Clip = g Exercise 2D Measurement of temperature Ambient temperature in lab ºC ice water ºC boiling water ºC Convert the following temperatures using the formulas on page 10 of the lab exercises: Mild temperature: 72 ºF = ºC Body temperature 98.6 ºF = ºC Cold day 10 ºC = ºF Very hot day 34 ºC = ºF Exercise 2E Metric conversions Convert the following measurements to the indicated unit: g = kg m = km μl = ml kg = 89 mg ng = μg dl = cl 20 megabytes = kilobytes μm = 0.37 mm 8 megabase pairs (mbp) = kbp mm = 11.5 nm 95 ºC = ºF ºC = 100 ºF

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