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What is an experiment?

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Answered 2014-10-08 02:26:15

An experiment is a method of testing - with the goal of explaining - the nature of reality. Experiments can vary from personal and informal (eg. tasting a range of chocolates to find a favourite), to highly controlled (eg. tests requiring complex apparatus overseen by many scientists hoping to discover information about subatomic particles). More formally, an experiment is a methodical procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, falsifying, or establishing the accuracy of a hypothesis. Experiments vary greatly in their goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results. A child may carry out basic experiments to understand the nature of gravity, while teams of scientists may take years of systematic investigation to advance the understanding of a phenomenon.

Experimentation is the step in the scientific method that helps people decide between two or more competing explanations - or hypotheses. These hypotheses suggest reasons to explain a phenomenon, or predict the results of an action. An example might be the hypothesis that "if I release this ball, it will fall to the floor": this suggestion can then be tested by carrying out the experiment of letting go of the ball, and observing the results. Formally, a hypothesis is compared against its opposite or null hypothesis ("if I release this ball, it will not fall to the floor"); the null hypothesis is that there is no explanation or predictive power of the phenomenon through the reasoning that is being investigated. Once hypotheses are defined, an experiment can be carried out - and the results analysed - in order to confirm, refute, or define the accuracy of the hypotheses.

Asking what an expirement is pretty much like asking what an experiment is except in the past tense. An experiment is a way one test a theory or idea. The are many ways of going about doing this, but all of these methods are backed by a question, hypothesis, and a procedure.

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