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What Is a Scientific Hypothesis? | Definition of Hypothesis

RECENT speculations in mathematical physics, and acquiescence in treatment in terms of unimaginable abstractions, have raised a general question about the use of hypothesis as a means of coordinating observations, stimulating experiment, and paving the way for a theory. It is possible to experiment not only in the laboratory with matter, but in the study also, with symbols; and a great deal of modern mathematics is of an experimental character. A hypothesis is boldly made, some indication of its plausibility having been detected by a flash of genius; it is then developed and its consequences worked out.

If the consequences are evidently leading astray, it is abandoned; but if like Planck's, like de Broglie's, and like Bohr's—to go no further—they lead in a helpful direction, yielding results that can be compared with metrical determinations, then the hypothetical formula attracts attention and begins to be accepted as the basis of a partial theory, even though its full significance is not understood, the reasons for it only dimly apprehended, and though the agencies with their mode of working are in the main unknown.

What is a Hypothesis?

Reprints and Permissions. By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate. Advanced search. Once a scientist has a scientific question she is interested in, the scientist reads up to find out what is already known on the topic.

Then she uses that information to form a tentative answer to her scientific question. Sometimes people refer to the tentative answer as "an educated guess.

Predictions should include both an independent variable the factor you change in an experiment and a dependent variable the factor you observe or measure in an experiment. A single hypothesis can lead to multiple predictions, but generally, one or two predictions is enough to tackle for a science fair project. What happens if, at the end of your science project, you look at the data you have collected and you realize it does not support your hypothesis?

What Is a Hypothesis? (Science)

First, do not panic! The point of a science project is not to prove your hypothesis right.

The point is to understand more about how the natural world works. Or, as it is sometimes put, to find out the scientific truth. When scientists do an experiment, they very often have data that shows their starting hypothesis was wrong.

Well, the natural world is complex—it takes a lot of experimenting to figure out how it works—and the more explanations you test, the closer you get to figuring out the truth. For scientists, disproving a hypothesis still means they gained important information, and they can use that information to make their next hypothesis even better.

What Is a Scientific Hypothesis? | Definition of Hypothesis | Live Science

In a science fair setting, judges can be just as impressed by projects that start out with a faulty hypothesis; what matters more is whether you understood your science fair project, had a well-controlled experiment, and have ideas about what you would do next to improve your project if you had more time.

You can read more about a science fair judge's view on disproving your hypothesis here. It is worth noting, scientists never talk about their hypothesis being "right" or "wrong. This goes back to the point that nature is complex—so complex that it takes more than a single experiment to figure it all out because a single experiment could give you misleading data. For example, let us say that you hypothesize that earthworms do not exist in places that have very cold winters because it is too cold for them to survive.


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You then predict that you will find earthworms in the dirt in Florida, which has warm winters, but not Alaska, which has cold winters. When you go and dig a 3-foot by 3-foot-wide and 1-foot-deep hole in the dirt in those two states, you discover Floridian earthworms, but not Alaskan ones.

Hypothesis basics

So, was your hypothesis right? Well, your data "supported" your hypothesis, but your experiment did not cover that much ground. Can you really be sure there are no earthworms in Alaska? Which is why scientists only support or not their hypothesis with data, rather than proving them.