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Discovery is the act of detecting something new, or something "old" that had been unrecognized as meaningful. With reference to sciences and academic disciplines, discovery is the observation of new phenomena, new actions, or new events and providing new reasoning to explain the knowledge gathered through such observations with previously acquired knowledge from abstract thought and everyday experiences. A discovery may sometimes be based on earlier discoveries, collaborations, or ideas. Some discoveries represent a radical breakthrough in knowledge or technology.
New discoveries are acquired through various senses and are usually assimilated, merging with pre-existing knowledge and actions. Questioning is a major form of human thought and interpersonal communication, and plays a key role in discovery. Discoveries are often made due to questions. Some discoveries lead to the invention of objects, processes, or techniques. A discovery may sometimes be based on earlier discoveries, collaborations or ideas, and the process of discovery requires at least the awareness that an existing concept or method can be modified or transformed. However, some discoveries also represent a radical breakthrough in knowledge.
Within scientific disciplines, discovery is the observation of new phenomena, actions, or events which helps explain knowledge gathered through previously acquired scientific evidence. In science, exploration is one of three purposes of research, the other two being description and explanation. Discovery is made by providing observational evidence and attempts to develop an initial, rough understanding of some phenomenon.
Discovery within the field of particle physics has an accepted definition for what constitutes a discovery: a five-sigma level of certainty. Such a level defines statistically how unlikely it is that an experimental result is due to chance. The combination of a five-sigma level of certainty, and independent confirmation by other experiments, turns findings into accepted discoveries.
Discovery can also be used to describe the first incursions of peoples from one culture into the geographical and cultural environment of others. Western culture has used the term "discovery" in their histories to subtly emphasize the importance of "exploration" in the history of the world, such as in the "Age of Exploration".