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Tools Used by Scientists
Scientists use complex and precise tools to perform research. In the field, scientists use highly accurate measuring devices to find data about how a system or process works. To record and analyze the data they find, scientists often use powerful software programs and computers. Depending on the type of research they do, scientists may use dozens of tools in the course of one research project.
Astronomers study outer space. They use high-tech telescopes to study distant events. Many telescopes use a complex system of lenses and mirrors to magnify the light given off by an object in space. Other telescopes capture emissions that the human eye cannot see. For example, a radio telescope captures radio emissions and helps scientists analyze information that is not visible to the human eye. Often, astronomers use telescopes in conjunction with complex computer systems. This helps them analyze large amounts of data and build theories about how our universe works.
Geologists use tools that help them determine what is happening deep underground. For example, a seismograph is a tool that measures shock waves as they pass through the earth. If a large rock deep underground shifts position, a shock wave will travel outward from it. Strong shock waves are called earthquakes. By analyzing the data that a seismograph produces, a geologist can predict earthquakes and analyze the types of rocks and materials through which a shock wave passes.
Scientists who work in laboratories, such as chemists, geneticists and biologists, use complex tools to analyze objects and chemicals. For example, an optical microscope is a tool that magnifies the light that bounces off objects that are too small for the naked eye. An electron microscope is a powerful tool that allows researchers to see objects that are too small for light waves to reveal. Another example of a laboratory tool is a centrifuge, which spins mixtures of materials very quickly in order to separate them by their mass.
Many scientists rely on ultra-precise measuring devices. For example, a scientist who needs to know the exact weight of a material will use a scale that is many times more precise than the average bathroom weight scale. Scientists who measure distances may use a laser measuring device rather than yardsticks or rulers.
Stan Mack is a business writer specializing in finance, business ethics and human resources. His work has appeared in the online editions of the "Houston Chronicle" and "USA Today," among other outlets. Mack studied philosophy and economics at the University of Memphis.