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Date Added: June 02, 2007 10:00:24 AM

Science can be defined as the study of the universe, its nature and the principles or laws that govern the whole or particular parts of it.  Physics and chemistry are considered to be general studies while medicine and biology are considered studies of particular aspects of our universe. Science refers not only to the process of study, but also to the knowledge accumulated by people using scientific methods to observe the various phenomena that occur in our universe. It is both the study and result.


A person using the scientific method gathers data from observations of a phenomenon. Based on that data, s/he forms an initial hypothesis, conducts tests on the hypothesis, and from the results of these tests determines if the hypothesis is correct or incorrect. A hypothesis may be proved true in a specific time frame or under specific conditions but lose its validity due to changes in the phenomenon itself or its environment. This is why it is important to check if what we consider as correct theories have withstood the test of time and still remain correct.


The use of the scientific method is quite important but it is just as important to have an impartial attitude. The scientist has to maintain a distance between his or her individual opinions and the process of investigating a phenomenon and confirming a hypothesis. That is part of the reason why repeated tests are made, to ensure that results are not influenced by the viewpoint of the scientist.


Roots of Science
    Technology is the mother of science. The technology used to fashion tools for war and peace, raise crops and animals, produce shelters and clothing, cure diseases and heal wounds brought about the development of modern science.


    The various civilizations that developed along the Nile River contributed such advances as the development of navigation, shipbuilding and written language in  Egypt, alphabets in Phoenicia, the development of the calendar and algebra in Babylonia, and smelting of metals in Armenia.


    The Greek natural philosophers attempted to define and explain the world, not tracing phenomena to the actions of gods, but through such theories as the four composite elements of the universe (water, air, fire and earth) and the existence of atoms as the basic components of all things. Hippocrates was able to develop the science of diagnosis or the identification of diseases through their specific symptoms. Diagnosis is of course still an important tool used in modern medicine.


    The Greek Alexandrian culture and thinkers developed geometry, the model of a solar system, made an accurate calculation of the earth’s dimensions, and other valuable contributions to mathematics and mechanics. Unfortunately the Dark Ages brought an end to any further development of science in the West.   


Science in the East
China was instrumental in the invention of paper, printing, gunpowder, the compass and firearms.  India contributed a numeral system with a zero, which Hindu scientists used in their own numeral system.  The latter also contributed to astronomy and mathematics. The Muslim civilization helped in the preservation and dissemination of both Western and Eastern scientific advances and theories, assembling scientists in cities such as Cairo and even Toledo. It also contributed its own discoveries including those in the field of medicine.


Reawakening in Europe
The knowledge handed down from the civilizations of the East and West plus the advances that came from the development of crafts in the Dark Ages formed the foundation for the reawakening of science and scientific discoveries in Europe. Modern science and the scientific revolution, however, can be dated to the 16th and 17th centuries, with the merging of crafts and science, and the development of the scientific method.


Copernicus shook traditional beliefs with his theory of an earth-centered universe and progress was made in the fields of modern chemistry, medicine and biology. Modern science could not have progressed without these and other scientists such as Galileo, Descartes and Kepler. Instruments such as microscopes, mechanical clocks, telescopes had important roles to play in the further advance of scientific investigation. So did the founding of scientific and academic societies and organizations that became forum for discussions of scholars and a channel for sharing of knowledge. Sir Isaac Newton of the Royal Society of England was the foremost leader in the appearance of modern science. He invented calculus and discussed it in his book, the Philosophical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Calculus was further developed and also used in the sciences of physics and astronomy. Newton’s discoveries were only the start of a continuing series of scientific breakthroughs in geology, biology, astronomy, medicine, chemistry and other fields in the 19th century.


    The 20th century’s intellectual giant, Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity almost single handedly. A number of scientists were able to develop and amplify the quantum theory. These two theories shattered old concepts in physics, chemistry and other fields. In the past few decades we have entered the question of the very origin of our universe. It seems we are reaching for the stars.


Present and Future
    It is the 21st century. On many levels, we can say the future is here. Manned flights to the moon and Mars, cloning, super fast computers, laser surgery, surgery on the unborn, etcetera were once the content of science fiction books. Unfortunately there are many problems that our advances in sciences have not solved or reduced. Our world is heavily polluted; our forests rapidly vanishing; and water may become more rare and expensive than gold. We are confused if genetically modified organisms will feed more people at less expense, solving the problem of hunger, or if they will contaminate and destroy our valuable genetic heritage. We look with fear at the rise of new diseases or old diseases that can withstand our medical arsenal. Of course scientists will say that it is not science that is the problem but the way we use science.


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