Scientific Method Help (page 2)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Aug 31, 2011

Changing an Accepted Law

In order for scientists to consider changing an accepted law, dozens of new experiments must be repeated by scientists all over the world that show the same results. Only this repetition of the same results will convince most scientists that a long believed law should be reexamined and might need to be revised or changed completely.

An example of this occurred in the area of medicine. Doctors for hundreds of years thought ulcers (sore spots in the stomach’s lining) were caused by too much stomach acid. Antacids and diet change that limited acid production were common treatments.

However, in 1981, Dr. L. Robin Warren, a pathologist at the Royal Perth Hospital in Western Australia, found that in the stomachs of patients with ulcers, there were large numbers of the bacterium, Helicobacter pylori . When these ulcer patients were treated with antibiotics, they soon recovered. It took a long time for the medical community to accept this simple explanation for an illness that doctors had been struggling to cure for many years. It wasn’t until a lot of other doctors and researchers came up with the same results that resistance faded and the standard treatment (law) for most ulcers became a cycle of antibiotics.

The keys to the scientific method are curiosity and determination, observation and analysis, measurement and conclusion. Humans are curious by nature. We question and study everything around us. The earliest people survived by trial and error. They kept what worked and didn’t kill them, like foods and medicinal herbs, and avoided the things that did. In the following chapters, you will learn how earth scientists study the many faces and temperaments of this planet as well as what it might do in the future.

The study of Earth Sciences includes many different areas. Scientists look at different aspects of the Earth from the beginning of time to the present. If someone tells you they are an earth scientist, be sure to ask about their specific field of study. There is a world of possibilities! Earth scientists try to solve ancient and current mysteries of rock, atmosphere, oceans, glaciers, fossils, gems and minerals, earthquakes, volcanoes, and everything in between. Think of it like, “so many rocks (volcanoes, glaciers . . . you name the topic), so little time . . .”

Table 3-2 lists a few of the many fields earth scientists, in countries all over the world, are working in and attempting to decipher the Earth’s internal and external processes.

Table 3-2 The dynamic Earth provides many different areas of focus for earth scientists.

Earth Sciences field

Area of interest


Composition of the Earth compared to other planets


Location of Earth within the Universe


Origin of the Universe and the formation of the Earth

Environmental geology

Conservation of resources and future planning

Exploration geophysics

Crustal composition to find resources (e.g., oil, gold)


Chemical composition of rocks and their changes


Time as it relates to the Earth’s history


Nature, origin, development, and surface of land forms


Earth’s magnetism, gravity, electrical properties, radioactivity


Formation, movement, and makeup of current glaciers


Composition and flow of water over the Earth


Microscopic fossils of plant and animal remains in rock


Natural and synthetic minerals with a crystalline structure


Water makeup, currents, boundaries, topography, marine life


Identify, describe, classify, and date fossils




Force, direction, and duration of earthquakes


Analysis of rocks and placing them in geological time order

Structural geology

Rock changes and distortions within the Earth’s layers


Formation, activity, temperature, and explosions of volcanoes


As geologists better understand the Earth’s rhythms and inner workings, theories and laws will continue to be strengthened or changed to reflect the latest experimental data.

Practice Problems of this concept can be found at: Earth's Structure Practice Test

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