- a quantity or function that may assume any given value or set of values.
- a symbol that represents this.
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WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH variablevariable , variant
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MORE ABOUT VARIABLE
What is a variable?
In the context of scientific experiments, a variable is any factor that could change or be changed.
So, for instance, if you’re measuring how effective a medication is, variables could include the amount of dosage, how frequently it’s taken, and the characteristics of each test subject, such as their age and weight. In general, variables are called variables because they vary. However, in scientific experiments, some variables are kept the same on purpose—such a variable is called a control variable (or sometimes simply just a control).
There are three different types of variables: dependent variables, independent variables, and control variables. Independent variables are the factors that you change. Dependent variables are things that are affected by the changes that you make—the results of the tests (which depend on the independent variables). Control variables are the factors that you do not change. They are kept the same for every test or measurement in order to make sure that the results can be compared fairly.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to figure out which brand of plant food will help a sunflower grow to the tallest height. The dependent variable is the final height of the sunflower. The independent variable (the factor that you change) is the brand of plant food. There are a number of other factors that could impact the growth of the plant, including things like the amount of sunlight and the amount of water. To allow for a proper comparison of the results, these need to be control variables—they need to be controlled, or kept the same. This way, you can have a greater degree of certainty that the final difference in heights (the dependent variable) is due to which food each sunflower received (the independent variable), not differences in sunlight or water.
Properly setting the variables is crucial to scientifically sound experiments and studies.
Why are variables important?
Science is messy. We like to think of experimentation as a simple process of “change one thing and record what happens,” but in reality, every possible subject of study has dozens of different factors that can impact the results—the variables.
Scientists are trained to be careful when setting all the variables for an experiment. In many experiments, even minor unintended fluctuations in some factor can make the findings inaccurate or misleading. The results of experiments are sometimes later debunked after it has been revealed that variables somehow skewed the results.
Understanding the importance of variables will make you more likely to draw sound conclusions and less likely to fall for claims based on faulty science. For example, when examining suspicious statistics or experiment results, a good place to start is to ask what variables were involved, including whether control variables were used and what they were. Knowing the variables is crucial to critical thinking.
Did you know … ?
The term variable is used in the context of formal scientific experiments, but you use the same concept all the time without thinking about it. The process of trial and error involves trying new methods of doing something until you get the results you want. The new methods are the independent variables and the results of each attempt are the dependent variables.
What are real-life examples of variables?
Dependent, independent, and control variables are crucial elements of any experiment, regardless of what is being studied.
Students experiment with different-material balls (independent variable) and same dropping distance (control variable), to determine height of the bounce (dependent variable). Good work, 6White Science students. @cjhdragons #d26embracethejourney pic.twitter.com/1QBWjD0aQS
— Sarah Edwards, BS, MA (@safetysarah11) October 1, 2019
What other words are related to variable?
True or False?
In an experiment, the control variable is the one that you change.
How to use variable in a sentence
As a result, the number of possible permutations of variables, or ways of arranging colors on the dice, is 239,000 — a very, very big number.
During periods of stress, heart rate becomes less variable and the time between beats gets shorter.Why do we miss the rituals put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic?|Sujata Gupta|August 14, 2020|Science News
Across all of the experiments, controlling for lots of variables, the researchers found that the tilted coins distracted people and slowed them down from finding the actual ellipse.This Vision Experiment Resolved a Centuries-Old Philosophical Debate - Facts So Romantic|Jim Davies|August 14, 2020|Nautilus
In 1912, the Harvard astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt used plate observations from a telescope in Peru to discover that strange variable stars called Cepheids could be used to precisely measure vast distances in space.
One of the most terrifying aspects of the pandemic is that the severity of the disease seems so cruelly and arbitrarily variable.Our Genes May Explain Severity of COVID-19 and Other Infections|Monique Brouillette|July 27, 2020|Quanta Magazine
But turnout tends to be far more variable in a midterm election and modeling become far difficult.Did a Flawed Computer Model Sabotage the Democrats?|Ben Jacobs|November 10, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Researchers acknowledged that some unknown variable might be responsible.
AirBnB allows for connections: host to guest, guest to city, and any other variable you can think of.
This uncertainty explains why the forecast, while optimistic, is highly variable.
Throughout the process the program throws in random changes in a command or variable— these are mutations.This is What Happens When You Teach Machines the Power of Natural Selection|James Barrat|February 1, 2014|DAILY BEAST
It is small in cloudy swelling from toxins and drugs, and variable in renal tuberculosis and neoplasms.
Its disadvantage is that it introduces, with the bread, a variable amount of lactic acid and numerous yeast-cells.
Streptococci are arranged side by side, forming chains of variable length (Fig. 114).
After anchoring the wind was variable and light from the western quarter but during the night there was a heavy swell.
We have done nothing but sail on with very variable weather, for the last thirteen days.Journal of a Voyage to Brazil|Maria Graham