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Basic science: understanding experiments
Basic science: understanding experiments

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1.2 Introducing the experiment

Figure 1

One of the best ways to start thinking more scientifically is by looking at everyday items and experiences in more detail. Your first experiment will be based on an everyday process – cooking.

You will be looking at the relationship between heat and the water content of a potato, measuring the change in water content as heat is transferred to a potato during the cooking process.

If you have ever microwaved a potato before, you will have noticed that steam is expelled during the process. By cooking the potato to destruction you are aiming to drive off all of the water contained within it, enabling you to calculate its water content.

To conduct this experiment, you will need:

  • a potato
  • oven gloves
  • scales (digital scales will give a clearer reading)
  • your activity booklet [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]
  • a pen
  • a ruler
  • a microwave or conventional oven.

If you do not have a microwave oven and wish to use a conventional oven, you will need to have longer cooking times with longer intervals between readings.

Although it can reasonably be expected that most people will have similar results, there will be small differences based on the type of oven used, the type of potato, and the length of the cooking. These are the experiment variables; they are the parts of an experiment that can be controlled, changed or measured. Variables, and their importance in experiments, will be discussed throughout the course.