There are three types of models. Click on the boxes below to learn more about each type of model.

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Models that you can see and touch are called physical models. Physical models show how parts relate to one another. They can also be used to show how things appear when they change position or how they react when outside forces act on them. Examples include a model of the solar system, a globe of the Earth, or a model of the human torso.  A mathematical model is made up of mathematical equations and data. Simple mathematical models allow you to calculate things, such as how many miles per hour a car will go. Other mathematical models are so complex that computer software is needed to create them. Computer models are helpful in modeling events that take a long time, such as the movement of the tectonic plates. They are also just as helpful in modeling events that happen too quickly to see, such as predicting earthquakes. Computers also model motions and positions of things that would take hours or days to calculate by hand or through the use of a calculator. Scientists using computer models to help predict weather based on the motion of air currents in the atmosphere is an example of using computer models to predict the effect of different systems or forces.  Conceptual models make comparisons with familiar things to help illustrate or explain an idea. Conceptual models can also be systems of ideas. The classification system used to classify living things is an example of a conceptual model. In the classification system, scientists group organisms by similarities. Another example of a conceptual model is the Bohr Model of an atom, in which electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom the way that planets orbit the sun.

The conceptual model provides a concept of how the components of an atom are arranged, implying a similarity of the forces acting between those components. It is important to note that the conceptual model is not necessarily correct or accurate but is an easy way to think about the parts of an atom.  Sources of images used for this section as they appear, top to bottom:

• Atom, ehow.com
• Math Symbols, Kenneth Kho
• Light bulb, free grabber
• Solar System Model, HR Scientific Works
• Globe, Wold Maps Online
• Human Torso, HR Scientific Works
• Hurricane Katrina, Gstatic
• Car, OCAL, Clker
• Classification, The Diversity of Life
• Atom Model, Universe Today