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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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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.

Selected picture

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

Leonhard Euler
Leonhard Euler (April 15, 1707 Basel, Switzerland – September 18, 1783 St Petersburg, Russia) was a Swiss mathematician and physicist. He is considered to be the dominant mathematician of the 18th century and one of the greatest mathematicians of all time; he is certainly among the most prolific, with collected works filling over 70 volumes. Euler developed many important concepts and proved numerous lasting theorems in diverse areas of mathematics, including calculus and number theory and topology. In the course of this work, he introduced much of modern mathematical terminology, defining the concept of a function, and its notation, such as sin, cos, and tan for the trigonometric functions.

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by Jon Lomberg