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The water molecule

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

The earliest roots of science can be traced to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in around 3500 to 3000 BCE. Their contributions to mathematics, astronomy, and medicine entered and shaped Greek natural philosophy of classical antiquity, whereby formal attempts were made to provide explanations of events in the physical world based on natural causes. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, knowledge of Greek conceptions of the world deteriorated in Western Europe during the early centuries (400 to 1000 CE) of the Middle Ages but was preserved in the Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age. The recovery and assimilation of Greek works and Islamic inquiries into Western Europe from the 10th to 13th century revived "natural philosophy", which was later transformed by the Scientific Revolution that began in the 16th century as new ideas and discoveries departed from previous Greek conceptions and traditions. The scientific method soon played a greater role in knowledge creation and it was not until the 19th century that many of the institutional and professional features of science began to take shape; along with the changing of "natural philosophy" to "natural science."

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

Science is based on research, which is commonly conducted in academic and research institutions as well as in 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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A Persian astrolabe, used for determining the time at both day and night.
Credit: Andrew Dunn

An 18th Century Persian astrolabe used for determining the time at both day and night. The points of the curved spikes on the front rete plate mark the positions of the brightest stars, the name of each star being labeled at the base of each spike. The back plate, or mater, is engraved with projected coordinate lines. From the Whipple Museum of the History of Science collection.

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Claudius Galenus of Pergamum
Claudius Galenus of Pergamum (129-200 AD), better known in English as Galen, was an ancient Greek physician. His views dominated European medicine for over a thousand years. From the modern viewpoint, Galen's theories were partially correct and partially flawed: he demonstrated that arteries carry blood rather than air, and conducted the first studies of nerve, brain, and heart function. He also argued that the mind was in the brain, not in the heart as Aristotle had claimed.

However, much of Galen's understanding is flawed from the modern point of view. For example, he did not recognize blood circulation and thought that venous and arterial systems were separate. This view did not change until William Harvey's work in the 17th century.

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Science News

28 October 2020 –
Scientists announce that last week they discovered a reef structure in the Great Barrier Reef that is 500 m (1,600 ft)-tall, surpassing the height of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. The discovery is the first of its type in the region since the 1800s. (BBC)
20 October 2020 – 2020 in spaceflight, New Frontiers program
NASA's OSIRIS-REx space probe successfully lands and collects samples from the asteroid Bennu. The samples will be returned to Earth in 2023. (CNN) (BBC)
15 October 2020 – 2020 in paleontology
Researchers announce the fossil discoveries of Triassic drepanosaur Skybalonyx skapter at the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. (Los Angeles Times)
A boy discovers a fossilized hadrosaur skeleton at the Horseshoe Canyon in Alberta, Canada, dating back 69 million years. (BBC) (Global News)
13 October 2020 – Geology of Pluto
Scientists determine that white mountains previously discovered on Pluto during New Horizons' flyby owe their color to methane frost directly condensed from the atmosphere, rather than snow. (NPR)
10 October 2020 – 2020 in spaceflight
Boulders are discovered on the Bennu asteroid by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which is expected to collect samples from the asteroid's surface later this month. (Space.com)

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