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Scientific method

Scientific method

Science (from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

From classical antiquity through the 19th century, science as a type of knowledge was more closely linked to philosophy. In the West, the term natural philosophy encompassed fields of study that are currently associated with disciplines such as classical physics, astronomy and medicine and was a precursor of modern natural sciences (life science and physical science). In the 17th and 18th centuries, scientists increasingly sought to formulate knowledge in terms of laws of nature. Over the centuries, the term science became associated with the scientific method, a systematic way of studying the natural world and particularly in the 19th century, multiple distinguishing characteristics of contemporary modern science began to take shape.

Modern science is typically divided into three major branches that consist of the natural sciences (e.g. biology, chemistry, physics), which study nature in the broadest sense; the social sciences (e.g. psychology, sociology, economics), which study individuals and societies; and the formal sciences (e.g. mathematics, logic, theoretical computer science), which study abstract concepts. There is disagreement, however, on the formal sciences being a science as they do not rely on empirical evidence. Disciplines that use science, such as engineering and medicine, are described as applied sciences.

Science is related to research and is commonly organized by academic and research institutions as well as government agencies and companies. The practical impact of scientific research has led to the emergence of science policies that seek to influence the scientific enterprise by prioritizing the development of commercial products, armaments, health care, and environmental protection.

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The Grand Canyon from Navajo Point
The geology of the Grand Canyon area exposes one of the most complete sequences of rock anywhere, representing a period of nearly 2 billion years of the Earth's history in that part of North America. The major sedimentary rock layers exposed in the Grand Canyon and in the Grand Canyon National Park area range in age from 200 million to nearly 2 billion years old. Most were deposited in warm, shallow seas and near ancient, long-gone sea shores. Both marine and terrestrial sediments are represented, including fossilized sand dunes from an extinct desert.

Uplift of the region started about 75 million years ago in the Laramide orogeny, a mountain-building event that is largely responsible for creating the Rocky Mountains to the east. Accelerated uplift started 17 million years ago when the Colorado Plateaus (on which the area is located) were being formed. In total these layers were uplifted an estimated 10,000 feet (3000 m) which enabled the ancestral Colorado River to cut its channel into the four plateaus that constitute this area. But the canyon did not start to form until 5.3 million years ago when the Gulf of California opened up and thus lowered the river's base level (its lowest point) from that of large inland lakes to sea level.

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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

Rosalind Elsie Franklin (25 July 1920 - 16 April 1958) was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. Franklin is best known for her contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, while working at King's College London under the direction of physicist John Randall. By the time the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to Crick, Watson, and her colleague Wilkins, she had been dead for 4 years. She subsequently became an icon in feminist literature.

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