The word "science" probably brings to mind many different pictures: a fat textbook, white lab coats and microscopes, an astronomer peering through a telescope, a naturalist in the rainforest, Einstein's equations scribbled on a chalkboard, the launch of the space shuttle, bubbling beakers, etc. According to Understanding Science, all those images reflect some aspect of science, but none of them provides a full picture because science has so many facets:
- Science is a way of learning about what is in the natural world; how it works and how it got to be the way it is. It is not simply a collection of facts; rather it is a path to understanding.
- Scientists work in many different ways, but all science relies on testing ideas by figuring out what expectations are generated by an idea and making observations to find out whether those expectations hold true.
- Accepted scientific ideas are reliable because they have been subjected to rigorous testing, but as new evidence is acquired and new perspectives emerge these ideas can be revised.
- Science focuses exclusively on the natural world, and does not deal with supernatural explanations.
- Science is a community endeavor. It relies on a system of checks and balances, which helps ensure that science moves in the direction of greater accuracy and understanding. This system is facilitated by diversity within the scientific community, which offers a broad range of perspectives on scientific ideas.