Science – it’s a wonderful world

By Shailen Lakhani - Last update


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Understanding science

To many of us, science is as mysterious as a magical conjuring or sleight of hand. We assume that scientific principles are true, but know little, if anything, about how to verify this for ourselves, which is a pity because science impacts upon each and every aspect of our lives, influencing our health, environment, our means of communicating and the technology we use on a daily basis.

In fact science goes far beyond magic because it does not lead to some ultimately disappointing illusion or deception; instead, it affords a glimpse in to the infinite complexity of the world and space around us. If anything, science continuously deepens the wonder of the things it examines.

Yet it is probably the fact of this complexity that intimidates so many and puts them off dedicating any time to the area. This is more than a shame: it is disempowering.

The philosopher AC Grayling recently spoke to the BBC about the importance of obtaining at least a basic grasp of science. Without a fundamental knowledge, claimed Grayling, people will inevitably feel excluded and removed from science:

‘People feel excluded by science and debates about science. They use laptops, they fly in planes, use appliances in the home and they don t know what s behind this technology. That is a problem, as it turns people into the slaves of our technology. The less people know the more they are likely to be manipulated or influenced by people who may not have their best interests at heart.’

While this learning needs to begin at schools, it is never too late. The strands of science are diverse and the options are many, so to help, here’s a very (very!) brief list of some of them, and an example of just why they might be of interest.

Biology

Biology studies living things. It looks at aspects such as the structure, growth, evolution and function of plants and animals. The more we learn about biological processes, the more we learn about ourselves. Biotechnologists essentially use nature as a teacher: they observe, analyse and apply natural processes to commercial and industrial purposes.
That’s interesting: Though technology is forever improving, information storage is costly and takes up space. There is a worry that it may one day either run out of storage space or become too expensive. This worry is being tackled by scientists who are seeking to store the world’s knowledge on the most advanced and most ancient storage system that’s ever been available to us – DNA.

Computer science

We all use technology, whether it is laptops or phones or washing machines. These things all operate on sytems that have been programmed. Computer scientists work on things such as algorhithms, computer architecture and artificial intelligence. Their work over the last number of decades has radically impacted on how we live.
That’s interesting: Jeff Stibel, a brain scientist and entrepreneur, has suggested that the internet is a new life form whose system of physical wiring resembles that of a rudimentary human brain. Stibel claims it is already showing signs of intelligence, something that will only continue to develop in the future.

Environmental science

Environmental science comprises elements of biology, ecology and geology. Its concern is with the interaction between the living and non-living components of the environment.
That’s interesting: The advent of 4D printing has led to the possibility that architects in the future will draw up their designs and the buildings, which will be made from static materials, will construct themselves. In addition to this, it may also be possible to make the buildings more sustainable and capable of adapting to their surroundings (which could be good news for the environment, but maybe not for the construction industry).


Shailen Lakhani

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