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The Science Portal

Science is the methodical study of nature including testable explanations and predictions. 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. However, during the Islamic Golden Age foundations for the scientific method were laid by Ibn al-Haytham in his Book of Optics. While the classification of the material world by the ancient Indians and Greeks into air, earth, fire and water was more philosophical, medieval Middle Easterns 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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Carbon nanotube
Nanotechnology comprises technological developments on the nanometer scale, usually 1 to 100 nm (1/1,000 µm, or 1/1,000,000 mm). A possible way to interpret this size is to take the width of a human hair, and imagine something ten thousand times smaller. The term has sometimes been applied to microscopic technology.

Nanotechnology is any technology which exploits phenomena and structures that can only occur at the nanometer scale, which is the scale of several atoms and small molecules. The United States's National Nanotechnology Initiative website defines nanotechnology as "the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications."

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Barred Spiral Milky Way
Credit: NASA

The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy of the Local Group. Although the Milky Way is but one of billions of galaxies in the universe, the Galaxy has special significance to humanity as it is the home of the Solar System. The term "milky" originates from the hazy band of white light appearing across the celestial sphere visible from Earth, which is composed of stars and other material lying within the galactic plane. The fact that the Milky Way divides the night sky into two roughly equal hemispheres indicates that the solar system lies close to the galactic plane.

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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.

Did you know...

Laser harp

  • ...that a laser harp (pictured) is an electronic musical instrument consisting of several laser beams that are blocked to produce sound?

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