Basic Scientific Principles Everyone Should Know About

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It’s a given fact that science classes have made many of our lives a living nightmare while we were in school. Be it the difficult process of balancing complex chemical equations or solving undecipherable calculus problems, science has never left a good impression. However, when you read all about the different topics, theories, and principles outside the school environment, you may actually like them and understand how it works in our daily lives. 

Basic scientific principles are the foundational concepts that help us understand the natural world. These principles form the basis of scientific inquiry and are crucial for comprehending a wide range of phenomena. Here are some fundamental scientific principles that everyone should be aware of:

The Law of Universal Gravitation

When thinking about gravity, the first thing that probably will come to mind is the apple that fell on Newton’s head. Because of this, Newton became the first to attempt to explain the mysterious force that moves everything. He stated that there is a gravitational force between objects of mass that is inversely proportional to the square distance between their centers. He also claimed that this works for all objects in the universe, which was later proven right. He revolutionized the idea of gravity in the first place and his law, despite being centuries old, is still accurate to this day.

Archimedes’ Principle

When no one knew how to explain how things floated in the water, the Greek mathematician and inventor, Archimedes, put all the minds of his Greek people at rest. His law states that anything that is partially or entirely submerged in a liquid will be affected by an upward force that is called buoyant force. This is equivalent to the weight of the liquid moved or displaced by the object. The magnitude of the buoyant force is also equivalent to the force affected by the weight of the object in the opposite direction.  One can only imagine what Archimedes’s would think to learn about modern discoveries like the rarest elements on the periodic chart.

(photo of Domenico-Fetti Archimedes 1620)

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

Bust of Heisenberg

Before the iconic appearance of the Heisenberg from Breaking Bad, there was another Heisenberg, who put forward the uncertainty principle. This principle is pretty easy to understand. The tricky part is understanding in what circumstances can this principle take effect. Heisenberg postulates that it is physically impossible to pinpoint both the position of an object and its momentum at the same time. This may sound absurd, as we can easily do that with any object we see in the street; however, this principle only works with subatomic particles, which can easily obtain the characteristics of both particles and waves. Therefore, when you measure its momentum, you would be ignoring its particle properties and vice versa. 

Evolution

This theory, as we all know, was put forward by Charles Darwin. It states that organisms change their constitution over time, whether in physical or behavioral traits in order to adapt to the new environment, survive the changes, and have more offspring. Some people even find the expression “survival of the fittest” best describes this theory, though the theory does not by any means indicate the fitness of living things, but their ability to adapt and reproduce. Natural selection is also related to the evolution theory, as it also describes that species can change entirely, to create a whole new species, which is known as “macroevolution”. The only difference between the evolution theory and natural selection is that the latter occurs due to a random genetic change, while the former are changes that happened due to changes in the behavior of a species.

Plate Tectonics

A theory in geology that explains the movement of the Earth’s lithosphere which has formed the landscape features we see on the Earth’s surface today. Plate movements are responsible for most continental and oceanic landforms and phenomena like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Quantum Mechanics

This field of physics provides a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It underlies the physical phenomena involved in chemistry and atomic physics.

Relativity

Albert Einstein

Einstein’s theory of relativity includes the Special Theory of Relativity, which states that the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating observers, and the General Theory of Relativity, which states that gravity is a result of the curvature of space-time.

Thermodynamics

This involves the study of energy, heat, and work. The laws of thermodynamics describe how energy moves and changes form, such as how energy is conserved (First Law) and how energy tends to disperse and become more disorderly (Second Law).

Homeostasis

This is the ability of a biological system to maintain stable internal conditions despite changes in external conditions. Homeostasis is crucial for the survival of organisms in varying environmental conditions.

The Scientific Method

This is a systematic approach to research and experimentation used to explore observations and answer questions. It involves making observations, forming a hypothesis, conducting experiments, analyzing the results, and drawing conclusions. This process is essential for the advancement of scientific knowledge.

Cause and Effect (Causality)

This principle states that every effect has a specific and predictable cause, and every cause or action has a specific and predictable effect. This concept is fundamental in all scientific disciplines, helping to explain the relationships and interactions between different entities.

Conservation Laws

The Conservation Laws are fundamental principles in physics that describe the persistence and consistency of certain quantities in closed systems under various processes and transformations. These laws are pivotal in understanding how the universe operates. Here are some key conservation laws and their implications:

  1. Conservation of Energy:
    • Principle: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed from one form to another. The total energy within an isolated system remains constant over time.
    • Implications: This principle explains why perpetual motion machines (machines that can work indefinitely without an energy source) are impossible. It’s also essential in understanding the efficiency of machines and processes, and in analyzing systems ranging from simple mechanical systems to complex ecological systems.
  2. Conservation of Mass:
    • Principle: In a closed system, mass is conserved; it cannot be created or destroyed. This principle was the foundation of chemistry and was later integrated into the principle of mass-energy equivalence (E=mc²) in Einstein’s theory of relativity.
    • Implications: This law is fundamental in chemical reactions, where the mass of reactants equals the mass of the products. It’s crucial in understanding stoichiometry in chemistry and in processes like combustion, metabolism, and photosynthesis.
  3. Conservation of Momentum:
    • Principle: The total momentum of an isolated system remains constant if no external forces are acting on it. Momentum is the product of mass and velocity and is a vector quantity, meaning it has both magnitude and direction.
    • Implications: This law is used to explain a wide range of physical phenomena, from the collisions of particles in a gas to the movement of celestial bodies. It’s essential in the study of dynamics, the analysis of collisions in mechanics, and in various sports and vehicular dynamics.
  4. Conservation of Angular Momentum:
    • Principle: In a closed system with no external torques, the total angular momentum remains constant. Angular momentum is a measure of the quantity of rotation of a body and depends on the distribution of the mass of the object and its rate of rotation.
    • Implications: This law explains the behavior of rotating bodies, from spinning tops to orbiting planets. It’s why a figure skater can spin faster by pulling in their arms, and why planets in the solar system have stable orbits.
  5. Conservation of Charge:
    • Principle: The total electric charge in an isolated system remains constant. Charge can be transferred from one part of the system to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed.
    • Implications: This principle is foundational in the field of electromagnetism and electronics. It explains the conservation of charge in chemical reactions and is essential in the design and functioning of electrical circuits.
  6. Conservation of Linear Momentum:
    • Principle: The total linear momentum of a system remains constant if not acted upon by external forces. Linear momentum, like angular momentum, is a vector quantity.
    • Implications: It’s a crucial principle in collision and explosion analysis in physics. In space, where external forces are minimal, the conservation of linear momentum explains the behavior of spacecraft and satellites.

Cell Theory

A fundamental principle of biology stating that all living organisms are composed of cells, the cell is the basic unit of life, and all cells arise from pre-existing cells. This theory is central to understanding the structure and function of all living organisms.

Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR)

Electromagnetic radiation, as you may already know, is a type of energy that exists in many forms. We encounter electromagnetic waves on a daily basis. We even emit infrared rays ourselves, a discovery that we made use of when we created night vision. There are different types of radiation that exist on the electromagnetic spectrum and most of them are invisible; however, if you click here, you will find that there are tools like spectrometers, which helps us see all the variations of electromagnetic waves. The different types start with the long wavelengths of the invisible radio waves, microwaves, and infrared. Next on the spectrum, there is the visible light which is basically all we can see with the naked eye. Finally, there are the short wavelengths of Ultraviolet rays, X-rays, and Gamma rays, which, suffice to say, are dangerous when we are exposed to them for a long time.

Final Thoughts

Understanding these basic scientific principles is essential for making sense of the natural world and the vast body of scientific knowledge that describes it. They not only form the foundation for scientific study but also help in making informed decisions in our daily lives.

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