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Critical Reasoning: Investigation Questions

Archaeologists have found that strings from hunting bows used in ancient times were made of either animal parts such as sinews and hair or durable plant fibers such as linen or hemp. Several bows equipped with such bowstrings survived in sealed tombs, and were still capable of firing a projectile after being discovered. Archaeologists hypothesized that originally these ancient bowstrings had superior strength to that of current synthetic bowstrings.

Which of the following investigations is most likely to yield significant information that would help evaluate the archaeologists' hypothesis?

Incorrect.

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The archaeologists hypothesized that the ancient bowstrings were originally stronger than modern-day synthetic bowstrings. Testing the ancient bow itself, after the considerable length of time that it lay in the tomb, will hardly give us any information on what its bowstrings were like originally.

In order to examine the original properties of ancient bowstrings, our investigation must somehow recreate the ancient bowstrings.

Incorrect.

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This answer choice suggests that we measure the force of a projectile fired from a modern bow fitted with a bowstring made with animal/plant materials. However, we need something to compare this measurement to. Without any data on the performance of a modern bowstring or the strength of a modern-day bowstring, this investigation is useless.

Very good!

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This answer choice presents an accurate test to confirm, or disprove, the hypothesis. If the tensile strength of a modern-day bowstring measures lower than the tensile strength of a newly manufactured animal/plant-based string, the archaeologists are right that the ancient technology was capable of producing strings that were superior in strength to today's bowstrings (thus also explaining how they were still able to fire projectiles after so many years). 

Notice that the hypothesis talks about the natural bowstrings in their original state, not after hundreds or thousands of years. This answer choice correctly points out that the tested natural string must be new to teach us of what the original strings were like.

Incorrect.

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This answer choice suggests that we focus on the materials from which the bows are made. However, the archaeologists' hypothesis focuses on the strength of the ancient bowstrings compared to modern bowstrings.

Incorrect.

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This answer choice suggests that we compare the strength of animal product bowstring with that of plant fiber bowstring. However, both these bowstrings are types of ancient bowstrings. Comparing them will not give us any information about how they rate in comparison to modern-day synthetic strings.

Measuring the tensile strength of an animal product bowstring and that of a plant fiber bowstring and determining which one is stronger
Examining the materials of which ancient bows were made and forming a comparison with those used to manufacture modern-day bows
Comparing the tensile strength of a modern-day bowstring with that of a new string made of animal parts or plant fibers
Measuring the force of a projectile fired from a modern-day bow fitted with a bowstring made of animal/plant materials
Comparing the force of a projectile fired from an ancient bow found in the tomb to that of a projectile fired from a modern-day bow