How Science Really Works: The Interactive Flow Chart

flowchart of scientific inquiry, the real one is interactive

We make a big deal on TreeHugger about citizen science, the idea that everyone can be involved in significant scientific work. We talk about evolution and its place in environmentalism. We span the worlds of art, science and culture in our attempt to define the undefinable sustainable world. Yet, how many people young and old are unfamiliar or intimidated by science itself?

Do we all know what science really is, and how it really works? A fascinating interactive flow chart brings the creative, sometimes clumsy, and always dynamic process of science to life. In the process the flow chart creates a web resource that could very well change the way you think about science, and raise the level of scientific education throughout the world.The University of California website called "Understanding Science" launched on January 5th for the Year of Science 2009.

"Through this collaborative project, we hope to overturn the paradigm of how science is presented in our classrooms," said Roy Caldwell, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology who led the project along with colleague David Lindberg. "The Web site presents, not the rigid scientific method, but how science really works, including its creative and often unpredictable nature, which is more engaging to students and far less intimidating to those teachers who are less secure in their science."

Judy Scotchmoor, assistant director of the UC Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley and coordinator of Understanding Science, along with Roy Caldwell and David Lindberg had previously launched the well received "Understanding Evolution". Yet they realized that there was a lot of confusion about what science is and isn't.

"Teachers had misconceptions, such as what a theory is or whether creationism is science," Caldwell said. "Many even thought science wasn't creative, in part because of cookbook labs, in part because of the emphasis on testing factual knowledge, not process."

The website was created with input from historians, philosophers, teachers, and scientists. Their hope is that it will help everyone understand the creative, serendipitous, world of science.

"The goal was to present (the concept) that testable ideas are right at the center of science, and if you don't generate testable ideas, then you are really not doing science," said Natalie Kuldell, an instructor in biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and one of the scientific advisers for the project.

The flow chart is easy to use, and a fascinating way to navigate the concepts of science. Each section is interactive, and brings you to real examples of the concepts in practice. The stories are well told, and you can observe the circuitous route taken by individual scientists of how they used science in their endeavors. This is one of those rare gold nuggets that you occasional find by surfing the web - bookmark this one, you'll want to come back to it several times.

via Eureka Alert and UC Berkeley News
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