Hi everyone, welcome to the new Chemistry course. If school has just started and if you have your exams in May 2016 (yes, talking about exams already!) this is the post for you. The chemistry course is different but similar. Essential questions (EQ) and the nature of science (NOS) are new but chemistry is still chemistry and you will be glad to hear that around 95% of the course is the same as what it was twelve months ago (and twelve years ago!)


Something different is the NOS and I thought that this month’s post would focus on just that. First of all, what is the NOS?  Well, in my opinion, NOS is what makes science real. It takes science out of the lab and the world of theory and gives you some real life, applications, uses and understandings of it. Science affects our lives and the NOS aims to show us exactly how this happens.

Your science teacher will have taught you about NOS previously – the only difference is that they did not call it NOS or have specific points to link it to – but it has always been there.

You might think of the NOS being the interesting stuff!

The IB has split the NOs up into five categories:

  • What is science and what is scientific endeavour?
  • The understanding of science
  • The objectivity of science
  • The human face of science
  • Scientific literacy and the public understanding of science

Scientific endeavour deals (not exclusively) with the scientific method. This involves being imaginative (from inventing post it notes to discovering penicillin) and sceptical of each other’s claims (eg, string theory).

Section 2, the understanding of science is all about theories, laws, hypothesises and fair testing. There are many real world examples of this, for example, Thompson’s discovery of the electron, the development of understanding of the shapes of molecules or the development of the periodic table.

Scientific objectivity deals with certainty – how certain can we be of our results – have we repeated them, what about the limitations of the equipment, is the data statistically sound? Your lab work with certainly deal with this aspect of chemistry and this good practice occurs in the real world all of the time, for example, the ‘discovery’ back in 2011 that neutrinos were moving faster than light.

In my opinion, the human face of science can be summarised in one word – collaboration. In order for scientific discoveries to be moved forwards, scientists need to collaborate and share ideas – the sequencing of the human genome is a perfect example of this.

And finally, scientific literacy and the public understanding of science. This is where we, as scientist need to be on best behaviour – we don’t want to give science a bad name. This section of the NOS deals with pseudo-science and examples of this include things as varied as unjustified claims about homeopathy to unjustified claims about creams that stop you aging.

What are the benefits of the NOS – well, it should make the subject more real …. And more interesting to both you and your teachers!

What have you learnt so far about the NOS? It would be good to hear your experiences. Please share some ideas that you have been taught below.