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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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The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century.
Plate tectonics (from Greek τέκτων, tektōn "builder" or "mason") is a theory of geology which was developed to explain the observed evidence for large scale motions within the Earth's crust. The theory encompassed and superseded the older theory of continental drift from the first half of the 20th century and the concept of sea floor spreading developed during the 1960s.

The outermost part of the Earth's interior is made up of two layers: above is the lithosphere, comprising the crust and the rigid uppermost part of the mantle. Below the lithosphere lies the asthenosphere, which is a more viscous zone of the mantle. Although solid, the asthenosphere has very low shear strength and can flow like a liquid on geological time scales. The deeper mantle below the asthenosphere is more rigid again.

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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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Maria Mitchell
Maria Mitchell (August 11, 1818 – June 28, 1889) was an American astronomer. Born on Nantucket Island, she was a first cousin four times removed of Benjamin Franklin.

Her parents were Quakers who, unconventionally for their time, insisted on giving her the same quality of education that boys received. She worked as a librarian and also pursued astronomy at her father's observatory.

Using a telescope, she discovered "Miss Mitchell's Comet" (Comet 1847 VI, modern designation is C/1847 T1) in the autumn of 1847. Some years previously, King Frederick VI of Denmark had established gold medal prizes to each discoverer of a "telescopic comet" (too faint to be seen with the naked eye). The prize was to be awarded to the "first discoverer" of each such comet (note that comets are often independently discovered by more than one person). She duly won one of these prizes, and this gave her worldwide fame, since the only previous woman to discover a comet had been Caroline Herschel.

Did you know...


  • ...that Scientists and Engineers for America is an organization focused on promoting sound science in government, and backing political candidates who support science and its applications?
  • ...that walking fish can actually skip, crawl, slither, and even climb trees?

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