October 28, 2009 9:43pm CST
What is the difference between an inference, a theory, a law, an observation, an interpretation, a prediction, and a hypothesis? Give one example of each?
• United States
30 Oct 09
An observation is what is noted during the course of an experiment or research, everything that is relevant that can be seen or measured. An interpretation is your conclusion based solely on your data and observations. It's an explanation of the results of an experiment. An inference is a conclusion based on available evidence, so you can bring pre-existing knowledge into it. A prediction is what you think will happen during the course of an experiment. It's more informal. A hypothesis is a formal statement of what you think will happen in an experiment and it is more specific than a prediction. A theory is a conclusion or explanation based on facts and experiments. It has been tested and confirmed by multiple independent sources as being reliable in explaining or predicting certain phenomena. A law is a simple statement of scientific fact that is unchanging. An example of observation, interpretation, and inference using a T. Rex skeleton: If you look at the skeleton of a T. Rex, one of your observations would be that the vertebrae in the tail are interlocking at the tip (it has a distally stiffened tail). Your interpretation would be that the tail acted as a counter-balance to the rest of the body. An inference would be that the tail helped the dinosaur make sharp turns without falling over. An example of prediction and hypothesis using a simple experiment: If a student decided to do an easy experiment to test whether crushed ice or cubed ice melts faster, their prediction would be that crushed ice will melt faster than cubed ice. Their hypothesis would have to be more specific, so maybe they would hypothesize that the crushed ice will melt twenty-five percent faster than the cubed ice. Examples of theories would be the Theory of Evolution, Theory of Relativity, Big Bang Theory, Plate Tectonics. Examples of laws would be the Law of Gravity, Law of Elasticity, Law of Partial Pressures, Law of Conservation of Energy.