Unveiling the mystery behind the physical Universe

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The History of Science

The progress of science is older than even humanity! Thousands of years before civilization began, people tried to explain why the sun rises and sets and why the moon has phases. They studied the habits of animals so they could hunt them down. They studied plants which could be used as drugs. They acquired basic knowledge about nature around them. Understanding the physical universe is an age-old and continuing human endeavor since those prehistoric days!

Early civilizations, from 3000 BCE, followed by ancient Greece, and until the end of the Middle Ages (around 1500 CE), continued the progress to learn more about the physical universe and to apply it in their daily lives.

Among the earliest scientific developments during these times were –

  • Numerals to record transactions
  • Astronomy to keep time and decide crop plantations
  • Geometry to build pyramids
  • Medicine for disease prevention
  • Acupuncture for medical cures

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The march of science – from the Giza pyramid in Egypt to the Louvre pyramid in France

The Greeks developed the first theories about the workings of the world. They defined medicine as a science and established principles using geometry. They built the earliest Scientific Models for the motions of heavenly bodies, although they erred on occasions, such as their model for the geo-centricity of the earth which determined that all heavenly bodies revolve around the earth. The greatest minds of the ancient era included the philosopher Aristotle, the mathematician Pythagoras, the physician Galen, and scores of other philosophers and thinkers.

Early science thus started as a pursuit of curiosity and thought, and slowly acquired the status of an academic discipline over time. It was an avocation (a pastime or a hobby) long before it became a vocation!

The Rebirth of Science

The formal pursuit of science as a discipline got a boost in the 1500s when Copernicus overturned Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the world with the correct helio-centric model. This paved the way for a scientific revolution, led by renowned scientists like Galileo, Newton, and Leonardo da Vinci and their discoveries and theories. It further paved the way for the Age of Reason – the insistence on the use of reason to determine the truth. Many of the laws and rules carved out during this era are still prevalent today –

  • Experimentation to prove scientific theories
  • Circulating the results of a scientific inquiry
  • Review by peers
  • Establishing universal truths based on scientific thought, theories, and discoveries
  • Acceptability of subsequent scientists to build upon, or even refute previously established thoughts
  • Gathering of scholars to review, organize and publish established works – the early encyclopedias
  • Integrity and honesty in the process of scientific discovery – the beginning of ethics in science (See also: Nature of Science – Ethical Practices).

(L to R: Science in the Middle Ages; the Age of Reason (a depiction); Deep Space – a frontier of Modern Science)

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Modern Science

The world has continued building upon and perfecting the rules and principles of science as a formal academic discipline. Science today is an extremely rigorous discipline, a career choice for thousands of budding scientists. Inventions, discoveries, theories, hypotheses, conjectures – all forms of the advancement of science are progressing even faster today than ever before. Nuclear physics, genetic engineering, modern economics, deep space exploration, and many more new branches of science have evolved in the last century or so. The pursuit to unveil the mysteries of the physical universe continues unabated as never before!

Check Point

  1. The progress of science began –
    1. In the Middle Ages
    2. During the age of reasoning
    3. Long before civilization began
    4. In modern days
  2. The earliest theories about the workings of the world were first developed –
    1. By the Greeks
    2. By the Romans
    3. By monks in the Middle Ages
    4. During the rebirth of science
  3. The rebirth of science paved the way for –
    1. Astronomy
    2. Geometry
    3. The Age of Reason
    4. Medicine
  4. The Age of Reason began the insistence on the use of ______ to determine the ______.
  5. Integrity and honesty in the process of scientific discovery are the basics of ______ in scientific inquiry.

Answer Key

  1. c) Long before civilization began
  2. a) By the Greeks
  3. c) The Age of Reason
  4. Reason, Truth
  5. Ethics

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