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Exploring Physical Science in the Laboratory

John T. Salinas
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This book is customizable for courses with annual enrollments of 50 students or more.

This full-color manual is designed to satisfy the content needs of either a one- or two-semester introduction to physical science course populated by nonmajors. It provides students with the opportunity to explore and make sense of the world around them, to develop their skills and knowledge, and to learn to think like scientists. The material is written in an accessible way, providing clearly written procedures, a wide variety of exercises from which instructors can choose, and real-world examples that keep the content engaging. Exploring Physical Science in the Laboratory guides students through the mysteries of the observable world and helps them develop a clear understanding of challenging concepts.

About this Product


  • Robust introductory material provides context for the material covered in the chapter and helps students apply what they learn.
  • The scientific method is covered in Lab 1 and revisited in almost every chapter. In the last chapter, students are asked to do an independent research project to practice each step of the scientific method from beginning to end.
  • Procedures are clearly written and numbered. They explain how to set up the experiments, how to perform techniques, and where to record data.
  • The inclusion of data, maps, and graphs that reference real-life situations keeps the content engaging for students.
  • An extensive full-color art and photography program provides visuals of lab setups and real-world examples, and includes procedural and conceptual diagrams.
  • Pre-lab questions are written to make sure students understand the basic concepts as well as the procedure they are going to conduct in lab. Students hypothesize what might happen and how changing variables will change the outcome. Some questions require calculations.
  • The level of math in this manual is designed to be accessible to non-science majors. Step-by-step annotated examples reduce math difficulties by showing students how to work through the equations, which facilitates the understanding of math concepts and builds confidence.
  • Efforts were made to keep the need for specialized equipment to a minimum. Computer tips are provided for schools with access to Vernier, Pasco, or other probes and software.
  • Data sheets are provided for students to record their measurements and work through calculations.
  • Thoughtful post-lab questions ensure students understand the overall concepts from the laboratory and make connections with real-world examples.
  • For Further Consideration projects at the end of each lab allow students to synthesize concepts they have learned and apply these concepts to new problems.

Instructor Resources Available: Login to view Instructor Resources

  • An online Instructor's Manual contains answers to all of the exercises. 
  • All of the images from the lab manual are provided electronically. Images are presented at digital display resolution (150 dpi), intended for use in PowerPoint presentations.

About the Author

John T. Salinas

John Salinas completed his undergraduate studies in physics at San Jose State University and received an early introduction to teaching. He spent ten fulfilling years teaching high school sciences, photography, and algebra. After completing graduate work in chemistry at Oregon State University and earning a Master’s Degree in Analytical Chemistry, he taught for thirty years at Rogue Community College, where summers typically involved field work studying and monitoring lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams in Southern Oregon.

Table of Contents


Periodic Table/Useful Information Tables

Lab 1 Scientific Basics: Measurements and Calculations

Lab 2 Scientific Tools: Instruments and Conversions

Lab 3 Motion: Distance and Time

Lab 4 Newton’s Second Law: Mass and Acceleration

Lab 5 Gravity: Intertial and Gravitational Mass

Lab 6 Projectile Motion: Trajectories of Ballistic Objects

Lab 7 Momentum and Impulse: Understanding Motion

Lab 8 Power: Working for Some Time

Lab 9 Centripetal Motion: Traveling in Circles

Lab 10 Energy Conservation: Kinetic Energy, Potential Energy, and Heat

Lab 11 Gases: Basic Laws and Buoyancy

Lab 12 Heat Energy: Specific Heat Capacities

Lab 13 Phase Changes: Melting and Boiling

Lab 14 Electricity: Static Charges

Lab 15 Electricity in Motion: Series and Parallel Circuits

Lab 16 Magnetism: Currents and Motors

Lab 17 Waves: Motions in Gases, Liquids, and Solids

Lab 18 Sound: Hearing Our Surroundings

Lab 19 Light: Investigations of its Speed and Properties

Lab 20 Optics: Telescopes that Bend and Reflect Light

Lab 21 Color: The Spectrum of Light

Lab 22 Water: Tests to Determine Quality

Lab 23 Elements: Descriptions of Atoms

Lab 24 Covalent Compounds: Descriptions of Molecules

Lab 25 Atomic Nuclei: Investigations of Radioactivity

Lab 26 Nuclear Energy: Radioactive Half-Lives

Lab 27 Physical and Chemical Reactions: Noting the Difference

Lab 28 Ionic Compounds: Nomenclature and Equations

Lab 29 Chemical Measurements: Mass and Amount

Lab 30 Chemical Bonding: Molecular Geometry

Lab 31 Chemical Calculations: Balancing Equations

Lab 32 Acids and Bases: Making and Using a pH Indicator

Lab 33 Geosphere: Defining Rocks and Minerals

Lab 34 Dynamic Earth: Drivers of Plate Tectonics

Lab 35 Hydrologic Cycle: Water and Heat in Motion

Lab 36 Erosion: Wind, Water, Ice, and the Inevitable Result

Lab 37 Weather: Station Model Data and Forecasting

Lab 38 The Cosmos: Beyond our Earth

Lab 39 Connections: Sun, Earth, and Moon

Lab 40 Solar System: The Sun’s Influence and Family

Lab 41 Stars: A Spectrum of Possibilities

Lab 42 Independent Research: Designing Your Own Experiment

Appendix: Graphing in Microsoft Excel


Student Resources


Exploring Physical Science in the Laboratory Sample Lab with NGSS Correlations