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organized way of using evidence to learn about the natural world; also, the body of knowledge that scientists have built up after years of using this process

scientific law (law of nature)

patterns in data

scientific theory

well-tested and widely accepted hypothesis

inductive reasoning

general conclusion based on specific observations and measurements

deductive reasoning

using logic to arrive to a specific conclusion based on a generalization or premise

paradigm shift

when the usual and accepted way of doing or thinking about something is changed

tentative science

Sometimes, preliminary results that capture news headlines are controversial because they have not been widely tested and accepted by peer review. They are not yet considered reliable, and can be thought of as tentative science or frontier science.

reliable science

consists of data, hypotheses, theories, and laws that are widely accepted by scientists who are considered experts in the field under study.

unreliable science

scientific hypotheses and results that are presented as reliable without having undergone the rigors of peer review, or that have been discarded as a result of peer review, are considered to be unreliable science.


that which has mass and occupies space

organic compounds

compounds that contain at least two carbon atoms combined with atoms of one or more elements

inorganic compounds

all other compounds besides organic compounds with exception of methan (CHv4)

high quality matter

highly concentrated, typically found near earths surface, and is useful to humans as an important resource (coal, gasoline, aluminum can)

low quality matter

not highly concentration, often found in deep ocean or atmosphere or underground and has little potential for important resource

law of conservation of matter

states that matter is neither created nor destroyed, only changed in form


the capacity to do work or transfer heat

kinetic energy

moving energy; contains mass and velocity
ex: wind, flowing water electricity
--> another form is heat


total kinetic energy of all moving atoms, ions, or molecules within a given substance

heat transfer

radiation, conduction, convection

electromagnetic radiation

radiation consisting of waves of energy associated with electric and magnetic fields resulting from the acceleration of an electric charge

potential energy

stored and potentially available for use; ex: rock, battery, unlit match

high quality energy

has capacity to do useful work; high-temp heat

low quality energy

dispersed and can do little work; ocean

law of conservation of energy/first law of thermodynamics

when energy is converted from one form to another in a physical or chemical change, no energy is created or destroyed

second law of thermodynamics

when energy is changed from one form to another, some useful energy is always degraded into lower quality energy (usually heat)

positive feedback loop

Situation in which a change in a certain direction provides information that causes a system to change further in the same direction. ex: vegetation continues to decrease and decrease, polar ice continues to melt

negative feedback loop

an opposite action to what is occurring in the body to regain homeostasis, ex. if body temperature rises too high, body tries to lower it

time delays

Complex systems often show time delays between the input of a feedback stimulus and the response to it.

tipping point

the time at which a change or an effect cannot be stopped, time delays can also allow an environmental problem to build slowly until it reaches a threshold level, or tipping point, causing a fundamental shift in the behavior of a system.

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