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Teaching and Learning science from scartch

  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I know a lot of scientific facts and formulas and laws, but not much about the process and experiments conducted to figure it out.
For example, I don't know how exactly did Copernicus figure out the heliocentric model. Damn, I don't even know, looking into the sky how did they even figured out planets from the stars, much less track their movements and what not. We are simply taught that there are 9 planets and they revolve around the sun.
We are taught the Newton's laws, but not the thought process (except for the apple falling on Newton's head) and the experiments and the calculations he went through to arrive at those laws.
I was taught that pure water is H20 with two hydrogen atoms held together by an oxygen atom and was taught how to balance out a chemical equation. Clearly, nobody had seen those text-book image through microscope, so how exactly by simply mixing and reacting different then-unknown chemicals did they figure out the atomic compositions?
Maybe they exclude these things (at-least in my country) because its too hard to understand for the students? But wouldn't it be appropriate then to wait until its not hard.
I think teaching the thought process and calculations leading upto a theory or formula helps to truly understand its significance and puts us in a position where we can expand on it. So, why don't they teach us those things?

Sometimes I feel like my grandma insisting that the earth rests on back of a giant tortoise isn't doing anymore worse than me saying that its revolving round the sun through empty space because both of us are believing somebody else's words.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
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I was taught that pure water is H20 with two oxygen atoms held together by hydrogen atom and was taught how to balance out a chemical equation. Clearly, nobody had seen those text-book image through microscope, so how exactly by simply mixing and reacting different then-unknown chemicals did they figure out the atomic compositions?
http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2001/hossain/water.htm
But - http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/podcast/CIIEcompounds/transcripts/water.asp [Broken]
It would be meaningless to speak of a discoverer of water - we've always been aware of it - but various scientists lay claim to uncovering water's composition. Laviosier realised that hydrogen and oxygen could be made from water in the 1770s, but the explicit discovery of its makeup is down to either James Watt, who suggested its composition in 1783, or Henry Cavendish who recombined oxygen and hydrogen in 1781, but didn't publicise it until a year after Watt's discovery. We do know, though, that it was in 1826 that Jöns Jakob Berzelius fixed the atomic weights of hydrogen and oxygen, and came up with the familiar H2O designation.
And this discussion - http://web.lemoyne.edu/giunta/EA/LAVEAUann.HTML

Some discussion about Cavendishes work.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Cavendish#Chemistry_research

Note that there is often a number of scientists working in a given area of science.

There is this gem - https://books.google.com/books?id=b9xYAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA131&lpg=PA131&dq=Discovery+of+composition+of+water&source=bl&ots=LEOt5_vAnU&sig=jFYuz4c8c_-mZxKU9uAZaZQx3OA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=e4CfVPHlKoPaoASuyoKwCw&ved=0CEsQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=Discovery%20of%20composition%20of%20water&f=false "The composition of hydrogen and the non-decomposition of water" from 1849.


As for the solar system and it's structure and relationship to stars, it comes from centuries of observation, and the realization that the motions are periodic (i.e. with some regularity). It was well known that the same stars (and groups) reappeared about the same time each year. The patterns of stars changed very little from year to year or decade to decade.
 
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