Ch 2 Study Guide
Science, Systems, Matter, and Energy

1) Define science and explain how it works. Distinguish among scientific data, scientific hypothesis, scientific model, scientific theory, and scientific law. Explain why we should take a scientific theory seriously.

2) Describe peer review and reproducibility. Why are they important aspects of science?

3) Give an example of a scientific method. What is a controlled experiment? What is multivariable analysis?

4) Distinguish between inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning, and give an example of each.

5) Distinguish between frontier science and sound science.

6) What is junk science? List four ways to recognize junk science.

7) If scientists cannot establish absolute proof, what do they establish?

8) What is a system? Distinguish among the inputs, flows or throughputs, and outputs of a system.

9) What is a feedback loop? Distinguish between a positive feedback loop and a negative feedback loop, and give an example of each.

10) Define and give an example of a time delay in a system.

11) Define synergy, and give an example of how it can change a system.

12) Define discontinuity and environmental threshold. Describe one environmental threshold that might be crossed to create a discontinuity.

13) What is pH? Distinguish among a neutral solution, an acidic solution, and a basic solution.

14) Distinguish between prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms.

15) Distinguish between high-quality matter and low-quality matter, and give an example of each. What is material efficiency?

16) What is the law of conservation of matter? Explain why there is no "away" as in "to throw away waste items" or "to put away pollutants."

17) What three factors determine the severity of harm for any pollutant? Distinguish among concentrations of parts per million, parts per billion, and parts per trillion.

18) What does persistence mean in relation to pollutants? Distinguish between degradable (nonpersistent), biodegradable, slowly degradable (persistent), and nondegradable pollutants, and give an example of each type.

19) What is a nuclear change? Distinguish among natural radioactive decay and radioisotopes. What is the half-life of a radioactive isotope? For how many half-lives should radioactive material be stored safely before it decays to an acceptable level of radioactivity?

20) Distinguish between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Distinguish between critical mass and a nuclear chain reaction.

21) What is energy? Distinguish between kinetic energy and potential energy, and give an example of each. Define heat in terms of kinetic energy.

22) What is electromagnetic radiation? List three types of electromagnetic radiation. What is a major difference between ionizing radiation and nonionizing radiation?

23) Distinguish between high-quality energy and low-quality energy, and give an example of each.

24) Distinguish between the first law of thermodynamics and the second law of thermodynamics, and give an example of each law in action. Use the second law of thermodynamics to explain why energy cannot be recycled.

25) What is energy efficiency? Why do we have room to improve the efficiency of the energy we use?

26) Distinguish among a high-throughput (high-waste) economy, a matter-recycling-and-reuse economy, and a low-throughput (low-waste) economy. Use the law of conservation of matter and the first and second laws of thermodynamics to explain the benefits of shifting from a high-throughput economy to a matter-recycling-and-reuse economy and eventually to a low-throughput economy.


acidic solution

alpha particle

basic solution

beta particle


chlorinated hydrocarbon


deductive reasoning

electromagnetic radiation


energy efficiency

energy quality

eukaryotic cell feedback loop

first law of thermodynamics

frontier science

gamma rays



high-quality energy

high-quality matter

high-throughput economy


inductive reasoning



ionizing radiation


junk science

kinetic energy

law of conservation of matter

low-quality energy

low-quality matter

low-throughput economy

material efficiency

matter quality

matter-recycling economy

natural radioactive decay

negative feedback loop

neutral solution

nondegradable pollutant

nonionizing radiation

nuclear energy

nuclear fission

organic compounds


paradigm shifts

parts per billion (ppb)

parts per million (ppm)

parts per trillion (ppt)



positive feedback loop

potential energy




prokaryotic cell





scientific law

scientific theory

second law of thermodynamics

slowly degradable pollutant

solar energy

sound science

synergistic interaction

time delay