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How Scientists Solve Problems-Part 1

Kathy Paris


Objectives: After viewing the movie Andromeda Strain, the student will be able to
  1. list and explain the steps in the scientific method.
  2. propose some experiments to perform given a hypothetical situation.
  3. analyze the data of an experiment and draw a conclusion.
  4. explain the pH scale.
  5. relate pH with hyperventilation (in humans).

Andromeda Strain is a science fiction movie. What you will be viewing has not occurred but many of the ideas are based on scientific methods and facts.

Remember back to when we did the scientific method or research method? The order was
  1. What is the problem?
  2. Gather information
  3. Formulate a hypothesis
  4. Experiment
  5. Gather data (from the experiment)
  6. Make a conclusion

You will be joining the scientific team to try to solve this two-part problem:
  1. What, brought by a satellite retrieved from outer space, is killing the people (and other organisms)?
  2. How do you control it?

Now that we know the problem, the next step is to gather information. In the scene when Dr. Mark Hall (the surgeon specializing in blood chemistry) and Dr. Jeremy Stone went to Piedmont in the space suits:

  1. What information did they gather by viewing the bodies? Give at least 3.

  2. Why did Dr. Stone say the organism must be put in a "controlled situation"?

  3. Where was this "controlled situation" located (describe the lab too) ?

  4. Why did each of the levels have to be "biomedically cleaner" than the level above it?

  5. Name at least 2 decontamination techniques used in the movie (these are science fiction methods; most are really not used today).

  6. Why did they need to "clean" their bodies?

  7. Why "no sugar in the gut" ?

Dr. Stone said that their main jobs were: 1. Detection-to confirm an organism is present; to isolate and identify it. 2. Characterization-how is it structured and how does it work. 3. Control-how to contain and kill it.

Because I don't want to give you too many clues, I'm not going to tell you their hypotheses (educated guesses) about the organism. What you are to do by tomorrow (before class begins) is to figure out some things the organism should be tested for. Keep in mind the first 2 of the scientist's three jobs: 1. Detection 2. Characterization (it's characteristics).

  1. What should be done to confirm an organism is present (what experiments)?

  2. How would you determine if it is alive (what experiments)?

  3. How would you determine how it entered its victims (what experiments)?

  4. What other characteristics should the scientists look at? Give at least 3.

Part 2     Teacher Notes

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