Portal:Science

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The Science Portal
For a topic outline of science, see Outline of science.
French Academy of Sciences

French Academy of Sciences

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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Marine debris on the Hawaiian coastline
Marine debris, also known as marine litter, is human-created waste that has deliberately or accidentally become afloat in a lake, sea, ocean or waterway. A form of water pollution, oceanic debris tends to accumulate at the centre of gyres and on coastlines. Some forms of marine debris, such as harmless driftwood, occur naturally, and human activities have been adding similar material into the oceans for thousands of years. Only recently, however, with the advent of plastic, has human influence become an issue as many types of plastics do not biodegrade. Waterborne plastic is both unsightly and dangerous; posing a serious threat to fish, seabirds, marine reptiles, and marine mammals, as well as to boats and coastal habitations. Ocean dumping, accidental container spillages, and wind-blown landfill waste are all contributing to this growing problem.

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A Persian astrolabe, used for determining the time at both day and night.
Credit: Andrew Dunn

An 18th Century Persian astrolabe used for determining the time at both day and night. The points of the curved spikes on the front rete plate, mark the positions of the brightest stars. The name of each star being labeled at the base of each spike. The back plate, or mater is engraved with projected coordinate lines. From the Whipple Museum of the History of Science collection.

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Claudius Galenus of Pergamum
Claudius Galenus of Pergamum (129-200 AD), better known in English as Galen, was an ancient Greek physician. His views dominated European medicine for over a thousand years. From the modern viewpoint, Galen's theories were partially correct and partially flawed: he demonstrated that arteries carry blood rather than air, and conducted the first studies of nerve, brain, and heart function. He also argued that the mind was in the brain, not in the heart as Aristotle had claimed.

However, much of Galen's understanding is flawed from the modern point of view. For example, he did not recognize blood circulation and thought that venous and arterial systems were separate. This view did not change until William Harvey's work in the 17th century.

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  • ...that acoustic levitation is a method for suspending matter in a fluid by using acoustic radiation pressure from intense sound waves in the medium?
  • ...that a successful experimental system must be stable and reproducible enough for scientists to make sense of the system's behavior, but unpredictable enough that it can produce useful results?

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