Natural Laws of Science: Definition & Examples

Natural Laws of Science: Definition & Examples
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  • 0:05 Natural Laws Defined
  • 1:25 Examples
  • 2:44 Laws vs Theories
  • 3:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nathan Crawford

Nathan, a PhD chemist, has taught chemistry and physical science courses.

Natural laws describe how many parts of the natural world work. This lesson defines natural laws and explains the difference between laws and theories. Several examples from physics, biology, and chemistry are also used to illustrate different laws within the natural sciences.

Natural Laws Defined

In your experience as a student, you might have come across concepts such as the laws of thermodynamics, Newton's laws of motions, or Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Did you ever stop to think why these concepts are called laws? Are natural laws at all like the laws in our society? And how are laws different than theories?

Natural laws are not like laws in our society. Societal laws define conduct between human beings and are determined through governing bodies. Natural laws, on the other hand, are determined by fundamental forces within nature.

Natural laws arise from the process known as the scientific method. The scientific method is the systematic study of the natural world through experimentation and observation. This method provides scientists with a rigorous framework to objectively study the natural world. Using the scientific method, natural laws can be verified through experiments conducted by independent observers.

Many different natural laws have been described over time, but all of them have a common link. In science, a law is a concise description of a natural phenomenon. The law can be a simple statement in words well as a mathematical equation.

Examples

When natural laws are mentioned, one of the more common scientific disciplines that comes to mind is physics. Laws in physics include concepts such as Newton's law of universal gravitation. This law describes the attractive gravitational force (F) that exists between two masses (M sub 1 and M sub 2). Here is the law of universal gravitation expressed as a mathematical equation:

Newtons law of universal gravitation expressed as a mathematical equation

Another example of a natural law in physics is Ohm's law that describes the relationship between voltage (V), current (I), and resistance (R).

Ohms law expressed as a mathematical relationship

Natural laws are also found within chemistry. One of the most important laws in chemistry is the law of conservation of matter. This law states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. This law establishes the foundation for understanding chemical reactions, since matter in reactions is just recombined to form different combinations. The law of conservation of matter predicts that the same total number of atoms are present before and after a chemical reaction.

The law of conservation of matter predicts that the same total number of atoms are present before and after a chemical reaction

Biology, too, has laws that describe natural phenomena. One excellent example is Mendel's law of segregation. This law describes how physical traits are passed from one generation to the next.

Mendels law of segregation describes how physical traits are passed from one generation to the next

Laws vs. Theories

The difference between laws and theories is often misunderstood. The crucial misconception is that theories, after rigorous testing, can become laws. This idea is false because it mistakenly assumes these products of the scientific method are connected to each other.

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