A History of the Scientific Revolution, 1500-1700

Exploring a time when science emerged as a new way of gaining knowledge about the world. Introduction Before this time, Europeans relied on two main sources for their understanding of nature. One was the Bible and religious teachings. The other was the work of classical thinkers, especially the philosopher Aristotle. During the Scientific Revolution, scientists[…]

Innovations and Adaptations in the Medieval Islamic Renaissance

They improved ways of doing things that influenced the Scientific Revolution in Europe centuries later. Introduction In the Middle Ages, Muslim people developed a rich culture. Here are many contributions made by Muslims to world civilization. By 750 C.E., Muslims ruled Spain, North Africa, the Middle East, and much of central Asia. Over the next[…]

Discoveries and Inventions in Ancient and Medieval China

Exploring discoveries and inventions made by the Chinese between about 200 and 1400 C.E. Introduction Over the centuries, Chinese scholars and scientists studied engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine, among other subjects. Their studies led to scientific and technological progress that was often far ahead of advances in the rest of the world. To understand the[…]

Robert Hooke, 17th-Century Scientist Extraordinaire

He argued with Newton, and both were partially right. Introduction Groundbreaking discoveries in science often come with two iconic images, one representing the breakthrough and the other, the discoverer. For example, the page from Darwin’s notebook sketching the branching pattern of evolution often accompanies a portrait of Darwin in his early years when the notebook[…]

Marie Tharp: The Woman Who Pioneered Mapping the Ocean Six Decades Ago

Geologist and cartographer Tharp changed scientific thinking about what lay at the bottom of the ocean. Introduction Despite all the deep-sea expeditions and samples taken from the seabed over the past 100 years, humans still know very little about the ocean’s deepest reaches. And there are good reasons to learn more. Most tsunamis start with[…]

Rosalind Franklin: The Woman Who Discovered the Secret to Life

Franklin was born a century ago, and her X-ray crystallography work crucially contributed to determining the structure of DNA. Introduction What do coal, viruses and DNA have in common? The structures of each – the predominant power source of the early 20th century, one of the most remarkable forms of life on Earth and the[…]

Art and Science in Renaissance Italy

The increased study of plants for artistic purposes during the Renaissance led to the development of the modern field of botany. Early Renaissance Italy witnessed a remarkable flowering of the arts and sciences. Humanist scholars looked to medieval libraries to discover works from the past, which they copied, studied and developed in new ways. They[…]

Eels and Feels: A Strange Fetish with ‘Electric’ Animals in the 18th Century

For Georgian Londoners, the allure of electric animals was both intellectual and sensual. By Ruth Garde / 04.06.2017 Curator, Creative Producer, Writer For Georgian Londoners, the allure of electric animals was both intellectual and sensual. By the time James Munro wrote these words, scientific investigations into the electrical properties of torpedo fish and electric eels had been[…]

Listen and Learn: The Language of Science and Skepticism

Making sure what’s intended is what’s heard can be more difficult than it seems. Melvin Gaal (mindsharing.eu) A lot of problems are caused by an incorrect or incomplete understanding of terms we use regularly. By Peter Ellerton / 08.25.2012 Lecturer in Critical Thinking The University of Queensland As scientists, one of our responsibilities should be[…]

Thunderbolts and Lightning: A History of Discovery and Research in Electricity

Fire in the sky has always exerted a powerful hold on our imagination, even as early scientists started unlocking the secrets of atmospheric electricity. By Ruth Garde / 03.29.2017 Curator, Creative Producer, Writer It might come as no surprise that Michael Faraday, one of the most influential scientists in the history of electricity, would give[…]

The Power of Death and Resurrection with Electricity in the 19th Century

In the 19th century, electricity held life in the balance, with the power to execute – or reanimate. By Ruth Garde / 04.20.2017 Curator, Creative Producer, Writer The devastating power of electricity gave good cause for the unease and fear it evoked. And yet the risk of lethal injury was what made it so fascinating and its[…]

Charged Bodies: Experiments with Electricity and the Human Body in the 18th Century

Electrified humans brought education and performance together with a spark in the 18th century. By Ruth Garde / 04.12.2017 Curator, Creative Producer, Writer Eels had become unwitting performers in demonstrations of natural electricity after the 1770s, but the human body had been an indispensable element in public displays of artificial electricity since the 1730s. Enthusiasm for such[…]

Exposure to Science is Growing in Popular Culture

Science is one thread of culture – and entertainment, including graphic books, can reflect that. ‘The Dialogues,’ by Clifford V. Johnson (MIT Press 2017), CC BY-ND By Dr. Clifford Johnson / 01.18.2018 Professor of Physics and Astronomy Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences University of Southern California How often do you, outside the requirements of an[…]

Early American Science: Benjamin Rush

Scientific investigation was a central part of eighteenth century philosophical inquiry. By George Goodwin / 12.18.2017 Eccles Centre Makin Fellow, British Library Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Arts Scientific investigation was a central part of eighteenth century philosophical enquiry. A desire to understand the detailed workings of the natural world[…]

Early American Science: Benjamin Franklin

Eruption of Mount Vesuvius. 1794. (British Library: Maps K.Top.83.61.i)  That the American Declaration of Independence was based on ‘natural law’, rather than divine sanction, stemmed from preceding century’s increasing reluctance to define natural phenomena as purely ‘Acts of God’. By George Goodwin / 10.05.2017 Eccles Centre Makin Fellow, British Library Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Arts[…]

Saint of Science: The Religious Life of Isaac Newton

Peter Harrison reviews Rob Iliffe’s Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton. By Dr. Peter Harrison / 02.02.2018 Australian Laureate Fellow Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities University of Queensland When Isaac Newton died on March 31, 1727, his estate included a massive amount of unpublished material. Almost 2000 short manuscripts, haphazardly[…]

Synthetic Organs, Nanobots, and DNA ‘Scissors’: The Future of Medicine

Nanobots that patrol our bodies, killer immune cells hunting and destroying cancer cells, biological scissors that cut out defective genes: these are just some of technologies that Cambridge researchers are developing which are set to revolutionise medicine in the future. 10.12.2017 In a new film to coincide with the recent launch of the Cambridge Academy of[…]

The Science of Sports

Flickr / Jaguar MENA, Creative Commons When you think about sports, do you consider the science behind it? Probably not. By Megan Ray Nichols / 06.01.2018 Air and gravity affect a football’s spin and precision of throw. A batter must strike a ball at “the sweet spot” and hone in on the pitcher’s throw, even[…]

Picture-Perfect Approach to Science with Math

Zhengwei Liu (left) and Arthur Jaffe are leading a new project to expand quon, their pictorial math language developed to help understand quantum information theory, into new fields from algebra to M-theory. / Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard Staff Photographer Mathematicians work to expand their new pictorial mathematical language into other areas. By Peter Reuell / 01.24.2018 picture[…]

Greek Science after Aristotle

By Dr. Michael Fowler Maxine S. and Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics , Physics Education,Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics University of Virginia Strato Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Strato. Part of a fresco in the National University of Athens. / Wikimedia Commons Aristotle’s analysis of motion was criticized by Strato (who died around 268 B.C., he is sometimes called Straton), known as[…]

Science with Aristotle

By Dr. Michael Fowler / 07.23.2015 Maxine S. and Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics , Physics Education,Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics University of Virginia Beginnings of Science and Philosophy in Athens Let us first recap briefly the emergence of philosophy and science in Athens after around 450 B.C. It all began with Socrates, who was born in 470[…]

Understanding the Hidden Dimensions of Modern Physics through the Arts

Can the arts be a bridge to other worlds? Daniel Parks, CC BY-NC Is a novella published 130 years ago our best bet for explaining the worlds of 4D and beyond? By Dr. Djuna Croon / 09.28.2015 Postdoctoral Associate in Physics and Astronomy Dartmouth College Sometimes, the hardest job for a theoretical physicist is telling the story. The work in this[…]

Understanding Scientific Theories

By Dr. Bryan W. Roberts Associate Professor of Philosophy, Logic, and Scientific Method London School of Economics & Political Science The Most Exclusive Club Getting to be called a “scientific theory” is like joining a very exclusive club. Not just anything can get in. Some claims that deserve to be called science have been called non-science. And[…]

The Limits of Science

By Dr. Bryan W. Roberts Associate Professor of Philosophy, Logic, and Scientific Method London School of Economics & Political Science Prolegomena One Sunday morning in Seattle, the rainy little city near where I grew up, a pair of newly weds sat down to have breakfast together. They drank their coffee. They ate their toast. They shared[…]

Modern Empiricism

David Hume / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Bryan W. Roberts Associate Professor of Philosophy, Logic, and Scientific Method London School of Economics & Political Science The Wolf in Grammatical Clothing One important concern of philosophy is the question of when one “knows” a proposition, as opposed to merely believing it. But a precondition for knowing a is that[…]

MIT and New Company Seek Working Fusion Plant Pilot in 15 Years

Visualization of the proposed SPARC tokamak experiment. Using high-field magnets built with newly available high-temperature superconductors, this experiment would be the first controlled fusion plasma to produce net energy output. / Visualization by Ken Filar, PSFC research affiliate By David Chandler / 03.09.2018 Progress toward the long-sought dream of fusion power — potentially an inexhaustible and[…]

Embroidering Electronics: The Next Generation of ‘Smart’ Fabrics

Is this machine adding an antenna to the fabric? Hindrik Johannes de Groot/Shutterstock.com By Dr. Asimina Kiourti / 03.12.2018 Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering The Ohio State University Archaeology reveals that humans started wearing clothes some 170,000 years ago, very close to the second-to-last ice age. Even now, though, most modern humans wear clothes that are[…]