In your astronomy course you will cover a lot of explanations as to how the universe and its constituent parts work. All of these explanations were arrived at by using the scientific method in one form or another. One goal of this web site is to give you some familiarity with the process of science and how its tools are used to find out about the physical reality around us. Hopefully you will find the method of science a useful one to use in your future to understand the physical universe. The scientific method and the tools of science are powerful tools of knowledge, but there are limits to its applicability and certainty.
There is confusion of what is ``scientific'' and what is ``non-scientific'' in the popular media today and undoubtedly you've heard testimonies of one science expert or group contradicting the testimony of another science expert or group. What is the truth? How do we know? How do we tell the difference between mere opinions and real accurately predictive explanations? We will use astronomy as a vehicle to arrive at an answer to these important questions. With all the material we cover in this course, it will help to keep the approach of the two-year-old (or rebellious teenager) in mind. Ask yourself, ``How do you know that's right?'' and ``Why does that happen that way?'' What follows is a close adaptation of a chapter from Ronald Pine's book Science and the Human Prospect (links will display in another window). I would recommend this book be a part of your personal library. The vocabulary terms are in boldface.
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last updated: August 19, 2012 (updated links to Pine's website)