Genes, molecules and momentum: talking about science

a young woman solving equations on a glass screen in a laboratory
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by Liz Walter

11 February is the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and, as a small contribution to this important topic, today’s post is all about science words. Of course, this is a vast field, but I have picked out a few key terms from the areas of biology, chemistry and physics, which I hope will be useful.

I’ll start with some general words. Scientists work in two main ways: by observing things (watching them carefully) or by doing experiments (tests done to see if something is true) or research (detailed study). Good verbs to use with these words include conduct, perform and carry out:

Scientists observed how the Earth rotated around the sun.

Doctors carried out experiments in which they grew new bone tissue in pigs.

She conducted her research at the Francis Crick Institute.

Biology is the study of living things, from the largest animals to the smallest organisms (single living plants, animals, viruses etc). Each living thing is made of cells. In the centre of each cell is the nucleus. DNA is found in almost every cell. Our genes (related adjective genetic) are made up of sections of DNA and control which characteristics we inherit from our parents.

Chemistry is the study of substances. Every substance is made up of atoms. Groups of two or more atoms form molecules. Substances that are made of only one type of atom are called elements (for instance oxygen or carbon). Substances that are made of two or more elements are called compounds. We use a chemical formula (plural formulas or UK formulae) to represent each chemical, for instance H2O for water. Scientists often study chemical reactions (the way chemicals change).

Physics is the study of matter (physical substances) and energy such as heat and light. There are three forms of substances: solids (substances that don’t flow), liquids, and gases. The amount of matter in a substance is its mass and its density is how much mass there is in a particular volume (amount of space). Physicists also study forces (powers that make things move), for instance gravity (the force that makes objects fall to earth), magnetism (the power to attract objects that contain iron or steel) and momentum (the force that keeps an object moving).

I hope that this post will at least provide some basic words to talk about scientific matters. Please feel free to suggest any important terms I didn’t have room for!

8 thoughts on “Genes, molecules and momentum: talking about science

  1. There is a fourth form of substance: plasmas.
    These are usually called ‘states of matter’ rather than ‘forms of substances’.

    You use ‘momentum’ in its common sense.
    However, in physics, ‘momentum’ is a well-defined term that has a different meaning.
    It is not a force.
    Physicists say that there are four forces: gravity, electromagnitism, the weak force, and the strong force. The strong force is what causes atomic nuclei to stay together despite the electromagnetic repulsion between protons. The weak force is what causes radioactive nuclei to decay.

  2. Emine

    When conducting a scientific experiment, scientists often make observation, hypothesis, analysis,then a conclusion.😊

  3. Margarita

    I am far from science, but I can remember some terms from my school days.

    From biology: bacterium, chromosome, evolution, ecosystem
    From chemistry: catalyst, oragnic and inorganic, the Periodic law
    Some tools: microscope, flask

  4. Ece

    I think it is very informative. We use some this terms in our science classes. I’m learning English so they helps me improve my vocabulary. Thank you for writing this post.

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