Would you pay a lot of money to see a scientist do experiments? Probably not. Now if it were a magician, that might be a different story. Magicians awe people. They do things that seem impossible. Their tricks defy any explanation and as hard as the audience tries to figure out how they work, they often cannot. For many, science works in the same way. They see the strange and the unexpected, and when they can't explain it, they assume that science is magic. But there is one big difference between science and magic. That difference is what makes science something everyone can do, while magic is usually left to the professionals.
What is this one difference between the two disciplines? A scientist wants to know why things work the way they do. And so does a magician. The difference is that a scientist wants others to know, also. As a result, when a scientist learns an answer to a question, he often writes a report, explaining what his original question was, what he did to test the question, and what the answer was.
Magicians never reveal their secrets. That is, magicians want you to believe that what they are doing is magic, that it cannot be explained in simple terms. Scientists, on the other hand, believe that everything has an explanation, and are happy to share that explanation with anyone who will listen.
In this book, you will be exploring a number of “magical” experiments. Many produce results that are unexpected, surprising, and initially unexplainable. But this is a science book, not a magic book. You will be shown the science behind the apparent magic, so that you can pass it along to others. You will also be challenged to take your newfound knowledge to a deeper level, by asking questions that will let you explore the concepts you are learning. At the end of each chapter, you will find an idea for a science-fair project, which is really just a more complete science experiment that you could perform over the course of a few days, weeks, or months.
As you begin, think about science as the search for explanations of common and not-so-common experiences. By the time you finish this book, you should clearly see the difference between the magic of a trained professional and the science you can do in your own home.
The experiments are organized into common themes. Each experiment is preceded by a question, which then leads to a process known as the Scientific Method. This process allows questions to lead to investigations, which lead to results, conclusions, and possibly, new questions.
The Scientific Method includes five important parts:
1. Ask a question about something that happens in the world around you.
2. Make up a possible explanation for this event. This is called a hypothesis.
3. Design an experiment to test your hypothesis.
4. Complete the experiment and record your results.
5. Analyze your results and use them to come to a conclusion about your hypothesis.
Scientists have been using this method for centuries to explore the magical and mysterious things they see around them. Now it's your turn—let the adventure begin!