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Science 101: How does a scientific theory become a scientific law?

by: William C. Robertson, Ph.D.

A theory doesn’t become a law. End of story, end of this issue of Science 101. Just kidding—it’s all about the how and why, and that hasn’t been answered. See if this sounds familiar: Scientists begin with a hypothesis, which is sort of a guess of what might happen. When the scientists investigate the hypothesis, they follow a line of reasoning and eventually formulate a theory. Once a theory has been tested thoroughly and is accepted, it becomes a scientific law. Nice progression, and not what happens. To understand how scientists proceed in their investigations, it will help to understand each term individually. What’s a hypothesis, what’s a theory, and what’s a law?

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Type Journal ArticlePub Date 1/1/2009Stock # sc09_046_05_52Volume 046Issue 05

NSTA Press produces classroom-ready activities, hands-on approaches to inquiry, relevant professional development, the latest scientific education news and research, assessment and standards-based instruction.

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