What is Science?
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The first task in trying to learn about science is to ask: What is science? (You should write down your answer before you read further).
"Science" means knowledge - or that's where it originated ( from the Latin scientia) - now the term leans toward the more quantitative fields of knowledge. Here we will use a "short list" for the sciences. Our list includes mathematics (including computer science), physics (including astronomy), chemistry and biology. Other legitimate candidates are geology, medicine, psychology, etc. There are also the various fields of engineering and, of course, many others (How about the science of cooking, a fairly quantitative field?). We'll extend our reach beyond the short list on occasion. The order of the short list is not accidental. Mathematics is not a science, but it is first because it provides the language which the sciences use. (Even more fundamental are the concepts of logic, epistemology and metaphysics, since these deal with the universal basis of knowledge, but we'll leave that to others.) After mathematics is physics. Physics deals with the universal properties of Nature. It is the most quantitative of all the sciences, and the workings of all the other sciences are contained with in physics. Today, physical theories based on abstract mathematical formalisms portend to describe all of the laws of Nature in a single unified construct (e.g. superstring theory, or "the theory of everything"). Although there are significant obstacles to overcome before the theory is complete, the mere postulation of such an ambitious attempt at unifying all of Nature is remarkable in itself, and represents an impressive measure of the power of the quantitative approach to science. Chemistry follows physics. The building blocks of the chemist are atoms. These are the atoms that the physicist has dissected into the myriad of sub-atomic particles which are themselves constructed from quarks whose colors and flavors fancifully yet unerringly form the (at least so far) seemingly basic structural underpinning of all matter. The chemist examines the ways these atoms are joined to form molecular structures, and devises new ways to synthesize vast arrays of such structures for a variety of practical applications. Finally (at least for our short list) the biologist' s fundamental working unit is the single living cell, along with its own life-defining structural mix of components. As we move from physics to biology the mathematical formalism becomes less able to explain the systems we study. This is not because new rules come into play, but rather because the systems become so complex that the shear magnitude of the interactions between various part of the system become unmanageable. So... what is science? It is that branch of study which tries to understand the workings of Nature by finding the orderly rules she follows. To search for this understanding requires a faith that the rules are both unchanging and universal. Scientists proceed under these beliefs to describe in as quantitative and simple a manner as possible the basic "laws" under which the world is constrained to function. ( For a somewhat more "official" answer to the question "what is science", look at what the American Institute of Physics has to say).