Which of the following statements
most correctly defines a scientific measurement?
Okay, so, in this question, we’ve
been given four different options that are possible descriptions of a scientific
measurement. So, let’s go through them one by
one and see which one is correct, starting with option A. A measurement is a method of
showing that a hypothesis is true. Now, this statement is very
problematic. But let’s first realize that the
word hypothesis means a possible explanation offered by a scientist for some event
or some phenomenon happening in the universe. And when it’s a hypothesis, it’s
basically just an educated guess.
Now, that hypothesis needs to be
tested in order to see whether or not it’s a good description of what’s happening in
the universe. And that’s what this statement is
alluding to. This statement is saying that a
measurement is a method of showing that our hypothesis is true. However, one can never show a
hypothesis to be true. Any experiments that we conduct
will either agree or disagree with the hypothesis.
And if an experiment disagrees with
a hypothesis, then immediately we can say that the hypothesis is false. However, if all the experiments
that we conduct agree with the hypothesis, then we can only say that the hypothesis
is a good description of what’s happening in the universe. Because there might still be an
experiment that we haven’t yet conducted that shows our hypothesis to be false. And for this reason, option A is
not the answer to our question.
Moving on to option B then. A measurement is the act of
noticing that some phenomenon seems to occur. Where the word phenomenon basically
just means an interesting event, something that happens in the universe that a
scientist will try and explain. And option B is saying that a
measurement is the act of noticing this phenomenon. Well, the act of noticing that some
phenomenon seems to occur is actually an observation, not a measurement. A measurement is a little bit more
than that. And we’ll come back to that when we
look at the next two options. But for now, we can say that option
B is referring to an observation, not a measurement. And therefore, it’s not the answer
to our question.
Moving on to option C then. A measurement is a prediction about
the observation of some phenomenon. Now, when a scientist comes up with
a hypothesis, a possible explanation as to why something that they observed occurs
in the first place. Then, they develop that hypothesis,
building a framework around it, a mathematical framework most commonly. And that mathematical framework is
known as a scientific model. In other words, that scientific
model is basically a more thorough description of what the hypothesis is trying to
say. And that scientific model will have
some predictions as to other phenomena that can occur, which the scientist can then
test to see if they occur.
And if they do occur, then that’s
good evidence that the hypothesis of the scientist is along the right lines. And if those predicted phenomena
don’t occur, then it’s good evidence that the hypothesis of the scientist is
incorrect. But the point is that a scientific
model can make predictions about the observations of some phenomenon. But that in itself is known as a
prediction, not as a measurement. And hence, option C is not the
answer that we’re looking for.
So, moving swiftly on to option
D. A measurement is the process of
determining the value of a quantity in an observation. And this is exactly what a
measurement is. A measurement is a little bit more
than the description seen in option B, which was the description of an
observation. Which is simply noticing that
something is happening. Because a measurement is made when
the value of some quantity is found.
So, for example, if we’re
conducting an experiment where we take a ball and roll it along the ground, then we
can make a measurement of the distance traveled by the ball. And the measurement itself will be
made when we determine the value, let’s say 0.5 meters of the quantity, which is the
distance traveled by the ball when we’re making an observation. And so, at this point we’ve found
the answer to our question. A measurement is the process of
determining the value of a quantity in an observation.