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Practical: 'Experimental Design -Investigating Photosynthesis'

Scientists always test their ideas. This is an important difference between what they do and what the lay person does with ideas. To test a hypothesis scientists observe, carry out carefully designed experiments and draw conclusions from the results. If results support a hypothesis the scientist becomes more confident that his/her idea was correct, but if they do not then the hypothesis is rejected or altered. The design of an experiment needs to be such that the results will clearly support or disprove the hypothesis. Aim To develop your ability to design and carry out a controlled experiment. Background Biologists some time ago discovered that in light green plants combine carbon dioxide gas with water to produce organic (= carbon containing) compounds, and oxygen was produced as a result. They called this process 'Photosynthesis'(photo = light, synthesis = to put together) No-one had actually seen it happen, the evidence of this occurring was all indirect. ie. the evidence had come from observation and inference. Photosynthesis was a scientific idea. Such ideas need to be tested. In this practical you will test some aspects of this idea. Equipment The following is available for you to use: (per group) - dilute bromothymol Blue solution (500ml) - Elodea freshwater plant (~5 terminal shoots) - test tubes (10-12) - test tube rack - carbonated water Method Your teacher will demonstrate the effect of carbon dioxide on a solution of bromothymol blue. add CO2

subtract CO2

Bromothymol blue * What effect does carbon dioxide have on bromothymol blue solution? * Suggest how the original colouration might be restored. Your group is now to design and carry out an experiment to test one of the 3 questions posed below: 1. Does a green plant exposed to light use carbon dioxide? 2. Is light necessary for a green plant to carry on photosynthesis? 3. Is carbon dioxide taken in, given off or involved in any way when a green plant is not photosynthesising? Choose one question in conjunction with your teacher. Discuss the following questions with your partner, recording your solutions in your log book: a) How are you going to show that photosynthesis has or has not occurred? b) How are you going to start and stop the process of photosynthesis?

c) What hypothesis will serve as the starting point for the experiment? d) What is the variable being tested? e) How can you control all other possible variables? f) What equipment will you need? g) What observations will you need to make? h) How could results be recorded simply and clearly yet be comprehensive? i) What results would support the hypothesis/disprove the hypothesis? * Set out the method/procedure you intend to use * Set out a suitable way of recording your results. One approach is to prepare a table like that shown below: tube 1 2 . . contents Bromothymol blue, Elodea, CO2, light . . . . indicator colour at start indicator colour at end

* Discuss the experiment with your teacher and have it approved before you begin. * Collect the equipment you will need (see equipment list) and carry out your experiment. Discussion * What conclusion do you draw from your experiment? * Do any of your experiments show that light alone does not change the colour of bromothymol blue? Explain referring to particular tubes. If you cannot answer this question from you results obtain results from another group. * How could the design of your experiment have been improved? For class discussion: * From the whole class' results, what generalisations about the process of photosynthesis are supported?