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The Measures of Science

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 challenging words: scaling, sundial, metric, customary, numerical, planetary, volume, estimate, measurement, various, judgments, based, imagine, extremely, clocks, grams

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 The Measures of Science By Trista L. Pollard

1     Imagine a world where we did not know the boiling point of water. What if we could not record growth of plants and animals? How would you know the weekend had begun if you could not keep count of days, weeks, and months? Measurement has been an important part of our lives for centuries, and it is the reason that scientists can compare objects and events quantitatively. Scientists rely on measuring to describe comparisons numerically by using standard tools, models, scaling, sampling, and estimating.

2     Before standard tools like rulers, clocks, and scales, people used everyday objects to help find measurements or quantities of other objects. For example, an adult foot was used to measure length. Large stones may have been used in simple balances to help measure the weight of objects. The sundial, the earliest form of the clock, used the shadows from the sun to help keep track of time. Today scientists use various tools like rulers, graduated cylinders, and scales to measure in English units (i.e., inches, feet, etc.) and metric units (i.e. centimeters, millimeters, etc.). Graduated cylinders are used to measure the volume of quantities of liquids in milliliters or fluid ounces. Scales can be used to measure the weight of objects in grams and milligrams or ounces and pounds. Scientists also use thermometers and barometers to measure temperature and air pressure.

3     Scientists build models and use scaling to represent objects that are far too large to show at their true size. Models are smaller objects that are built to represent the detail of larger objects. Scientists use smaller measurements that are in proportion or scaled to the measurements of the larger object the model represents. Scaling is also done to represent extremely large distances between objects, such as the planets in our solar system. Another example of scaling would be when architects build models of buildings. These models may have a scale where every inch on the model is scaled to a certain amount of feet in height for the real buildings. When scientists build models, they are providing a visual image that helps others to understand scientific concepts (such as planetary motion) and objects (such as high speed trains).

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