Select here to view links to the scientists and stories highlighted in this video.
A model can be used to help scientists understand how a process works, validate thinking, predict changes or explain ideas or a concept. Models are developed to better understand Earth’s processes like ocean currents or climate. More than one model can be used to explain different aspects of the same concept. For example, there are several models that help describe the structure of the atom
Digital models can show sequences and processes such as the phases of the Moon. Simulation models allow manipulation of variables to explore how they influence the outcomes of processes such as natural selection or the effects on gravitational field strength on the motion of objects.
- Models in science – video
- Scientific modelling – article
- Tracking plastics in our oceans – article
- Modelling tsunamis and protecting the coast – article
- Melanoma spread pattern model – article
For information about the learning challenges of models, see Teaching with models.
Examples of kairangahau Māori using modelling as part of their research
The Toheroa Abundance Project combines data from transect sampling with knowledge from the past (collected from oral histories) to model and manage future toheroa populations.
Dr Kepa Morgan established a mauri model to incorporate mauri into engineering decisions. It was tested in relation to the Christchurch earthquakes and following the impacts of the Rena grounding.
Models can be used in scientific investigations to help extend our understanding of something. Once developed, models can also be used to explain ideas or a concept.
Models can be used to develop scientific knowledge, and there are many different types, including using virtual reality, mathematics and physical representations.
Scientists can develop and use models to test ideas, explain phenomena and validate scientific thinking.
More than one model can be used to explain different aspects of the same concept. For example, there are several models that help describe the structure of the atom.
Some models are already produced, for example, a model heart or animation of the ocean conveyer belt. Others can be set up, like using a balloon to model the formation of a caldera volcano or a gravity well to explore the connections between some physics concepts and gravity.
Digital models can show sequences and processes such as the phases of the Moon.
Simulation models allow us to manipulate variables to explore how they influence the outcomes of processes such as the effects of a gravitational field strength on the motion of objects.
Video acknowledgements and links to stories
Zebrafish as a model organism in Cohesin proteins and human development, Professor Julia Horsfield, University of Otago
Ductile articulated structures, Adjunct Professor Stefano Pampanin, University of Canterbury
Our Solar System – revolutionary ideas
Shrink the Solar System activity
Southern Ocean carbon sink, Dr Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher, Principal Scientist – Carbon Chemistry and Modelling, NIWA
Winogradsky columns in Growing soil microbes activity
3D anatomical human heart model and classroom model of heart pumping with plastic bottle, from How to build a model heart, Wise Wonders Children’s Museum
Labelling the heart activity
Atomic theory cloud model, Yzmo, CC BY-SA 3.0
Beating heart animation, Professor Peter Hunter, Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland
Ocean conveyer belt animation, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/UMBC (learn more in the Science Learning Hub video The ocean conveyor belt)
Moon phases, interactive animated model, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio (for more about Moon phases, go to The Moon and its misconceptions)
Rocket launch challenge interactive and activity, demonstrated by Beatrice Douglas.