When is Something Scientific?
Many people think of an experiment as something that takes place in a laboratory. While this can be true, experiments don't have to involve laboratory workbenches, Bunsen burners or test-tubes. They do, however, have to be set up to test a specific hypothesis and they must be controlled. Controlling an experiment means controlling all of the variables so that only a single variable is studied. The independent variable is the one that's controlled and manipulated by the experimenter, whereas the dependent variable is not. As the independent variable is manipulated, the dependent variable is measured for variation. In our car example, the independent variable is the shape of the car's body. The dependent variable -- what we measure as the effect of the car's profile -- could be speed, fuel consumption or a direct measure of the amount of air pressure exerted on the car.
During an experiment, scientists collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Buried in that information, hopefully, is evidence to support or reject the hypothesis. The amount of analysis required to come to a satisfactory conclusion can vary tremendously. Sometimes, sophisticated statistical tools have to be used to analyse data. Either way, the ultimate goal is to prove or disprove the hypothesis and, in doing so, answer the original question.
- 13% or 325 were found to be beneficial.
- 23% or 575 were likely to be beneficial.
- 8% or 200 were as likely to be harmful as beneficial.
- 6% or 150 were unlikely to be beneficial.
- 4% or 125 were likely to be harmful and ineffective.
- 46% or 1,040 were unknown to be either effective or harmful.