Physical, Life, Earth & Space Sciences: Relationship, Connections & Applications

Instructor: Juan Carlo Carvajal
Science can help us solve large problems and answer many questions when used properly. Branches of physical, life, space, and Earth sciences can all be used together to estimate the approximate age and complex history of the Earth.

Combining Different Branches of Science to Answer Complex Problems

Did you know that the Earth is estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old? Did you also know that there used to be one large continent that over time separated into what we know today as the seven continents? The reason that we know these facts is because of data, testing, and research that has been obtained from a variety of sciences, and this information is then put together to make these conclusions.

Science is used to answer questions about observable or measurable phenomena. There are patterns around us everywhere, and science helps us define these patterns. Using a hypothesis, which is a possible explanation to a question, we can set up experiments or observations to either prove or disprove a question. We can also examine cause and effect relationships with science. Over time, when a hypothesis repeatedly shows the same observations over and over again, it becomes a scientific law. A scientific law is a statement that can be tested by anyone, which produces the same observable results every time.

For example, have you ever wondered why some beverages have greater effects on you than others? This is most likely due to the caffeine content. Let's say one day you realize that one type of soda seems to keep you more alert and awake than another one does. You can then ask yourself why that is. It is most likely due to the amount of caffeine contained in each beverage. From this observed cause and effect relationship, you can then create a hypothesis. That hypothesis will sound similar to this: 'I hypothesize that soda A has more caffeine than soda B because it has longer lasting effects on my body.' Once you have this hypothesis, the amount of caffeine can be measured using scientific instruments and can be either proved or disproved to make a conclusion.


Using a space science like astronomy, we can categorize the Earth in relation to space. The Earth is located within a solar system that contains planets, moons, comets, and many other materials. Using the principals of astronomy, we now know that the Earth is the third planet from the Sun. Our Sun is also part of a larger collection of stars that comprises the Milky Way galaxy.


As far as the Earth is concerned, we can also determine important facts about the past. Using the Earth science called geology (which is the study of materials and natural processes of Earth), we have been able to show that the continents used to be all part of one giant landmass that separated over time. We also know that the landmasses of the Earth are located on slowly moving plates found on the Earth's surface. The steady movement of these plates is responsible for volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

Additionally, the reason that we know that the continents all used to be together is because of stratification. Have you ever seen rock formations and noticed layers on those rocks? Some layers are light and some are dark, while other layers are either thick or thin. Those layers can tell us important facts about the Earth, with the layers at the bottom being older than the layers at the top.


Starting at the surface of the Earth, the further down you go into the Earth, the older the materials are. Interestingly, these layers can be matched up from one continent to another, almost like puzzle pieces. The reasons that we can match these layers up are due to many sciences working together.


One important science in this process is the physical science known as chemistry. Chemistry allows scientists to categorize materials found in different layers of rock. Chemistry can tell us the types of materials found, what they were a part of, and the context of how they got there.

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