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For a topic outline of science, see Outline of science.
Scientific method

Scientific method

Science is the methodical study of nature including testable explanations and predictions. During the Middle Ages in the Middle East, foundations for the scientific method were laid by Alhazen in his Book of Optics. From classical antiquity through the 19th century, science as a type of knowledge was more closely linked to philosophy than it is now and, in fact, in the Western world, the term "natural philosophy" encompassed fields of study that are today associated with science, such as astronomy, medicine, and physics. While the classification of the material world by the ancient Indians and Greeks into Air, Earth, Fire and Water was more philosophical, medieval middle eastern scientists used practical, experimental observation to classify materials.

Today, the ever-evolving term "science" refers to the pursuit of knowledge, not the knowledge itself. It is often synonymous with "natural and physical science" and often restricted to those branches of study relating to the phenomena of the material universe and their laws. Although the term implies exclusion of pure mathematics, many university faculties include Mathematics Departments within their Faculty of Science. The dominant sense in ordinary use has a narrower use for the term "science." It developed as a part of science becoming a distinct enterprise of defining the "laws of nature"; early examples include Kepler's laws, Galileo's laws, and Newton's laws of motion. In this period it became more common to refer to natural philosophy as "natural science." Over the course of the 19th century, the word "science" became increasingly associated with the disciplined study of the natural world, including physics, chemistry, geology and biology. This sometimes left the study of human thought and society in a linguistic limbo, which was resolved by classifying these areas of academic study as social science. For example, psychology evolved from philosophy, and has grown into an area of study.

Currently, there are both "hard" (e.g. biological psychology) and "soft" science (e.g. social psychology) fields within the discipline. As a result, and as is consistent with the unfolding of the study of knowledge and development of methods to establish facts, each area of psychology employs a scientific method. Reflecting the evolution of the development of knowledge and established facts and the use of the scientific method, Psychology Departments in universities are found within: Faculty of Arts and Science, Faculty of Arts, and a Faculty of Science. Similarly, several other major areas of disciplined study and knowledge exist today under the general rubric of "science", such as formal science and applied science.

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Mean surface temperature anomalies during the period 1995 to 2004 with respect to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980.
Global warming is the observed increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans in recent decades.

The Earth's average near-surface atmospheric temperature rose 0.6 ± 0.2 degree Celsius (1.1 ± 0.4 degree Fahrenheit) in the 20th century [1]. A widespread scientific opinion on climate change is that "most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities"[2].

The increased amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are the primary causes of the human-induced component of warming[3]. They are released by the burning of fossil fuels, land clearing and agriculture, etc. and lead to an increase in the greenhouse effect. The first speculation that a greenhouse effect might occur was by the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius in 1897, although it did not become a topic of popular debate until some 90 years later.

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Sonoluminescence is the emission of light by bubbles in a liquid excited by sound.
Credit: Dake

Sonoluminescence is the emission of short bursts of light from imploding bubbles in a liquid when excited by sound. The effect was first discovered at the University of Cologne in 1934 as a result of work on sonar. H. Frenzel and H. Schultes put an ultrasound transducer in a tank of photographic developer fluid. They hoped to speed up the development process. Instead, they noticed tiny dots on the film after developing, and realized that the bubbles in the fluid were emitting light with the ultrasound turned on. It was too difficult to analyze the effect in early experiments because of the complex environment of a large number of short-lived bubbles. (This experiment is also ascribed to N. Marinesco and J.J. Trillat in 1933).

Sonoluminescence may or may not occur whenever a sound wave of sufficient intensity induces a gaseous cavity within a liquid to quickly collapse. This cavity may take the form of a pre-existing bubble, or may be generated through a process known as cavitation. Sonoluminescence in the laboratory can be made to be stable, so that a single bubble will expand and collapse over and over again in a periodic fashion, emitting a burst of light each time it collapses.

Selected biography

Portrait of Georg Forster at age 26, by J. H. W. Tischbein, 1781
Johann Georg Adam Forster (November 27, 1754 – January 10, 1794) was a German naturalist, ethnologist, travel writer, journalist, and revolutionary. At an early age, he accompanied his father on several scientific expeditions, including James Cook's second voyage to the Pacific. His report from that journey, A Voyage Round the World, contributed significantly to the ethnology of the people of Polynesia. As a result of the report Forster was admitted to the Royal Society at the early age of twenty-two and came to be considered one of the founders of modern scientific travel literature.

After his return to continental Europe, Forster turned towards academics. From 1778 to 1784 he taught natural history. Most of his scientific work consisted of essays on botany and ethnology, but he also prefaced and translated many books about travels and explorations, including a German translation of Cook's diaries. Forster was a central figure of the Enlightenment in Germany.

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  • ...that the Witch's hat is the common name of a colourful orange-red toadstool?
  • ...that Derek Freeman was an anthropologist whose refutation of Margaret Mead's work "ignited controversy of a scale, visibility, and ferocity never before seen in anthropology"?



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