Fundamental science is either fundamental physics or basic science. The term fundamental science attributes to a scientific specialty a causal or conceptual priority by either of two, differing distinctions. Within philosophy of science, the many empirical sciences are often posed such that fundamental physics is the foundation underlying all others, which thereby are the special sciences that rest upon and in principle are derivable from, or conversely are reducible to, the objects and laws of the fundamental science.
In science's planning and practice, fundamental science is an infrequent synonym of basic science, also termed pure science, which yields theories and predictions—principally in natural sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology, yet even in other empirical sciences, too, such as cognitive sciences and behavioral sciences—not the technology and techniques developed in applied science. Using some theories and predictions from basic sciences—a scientific foundation—applied sciences, such as engineering and biomedicine, yield products and services.
Versus special science
Modeling fundamental interactions, fundamental physics is presumed to underlie all other sciences—such as astrophysics, chemistry, biology, geology, psychology, and economics—categorized as special sciences. In a conceived unity of the empirical sciences, the special sciences investigate domains whose entities and laws emerge from the domain of the idealized fundamental physics.
Whereas fundamental physics seeks laws of universal regularity, special sciences usually include ceteris paribus laws, predictively accurate to high probability in "normal conditions" or with "all else equal", but having exceptions. Although exceptionless, chemistry's laws were presumably reduced to fundamental physics—to quantum mechanics and then quantum electrodynamics—and so chemistry, presumed to emerge, is a special science. Bridging physical sciences to biological sciences via biochemistry, and influencing sciences generally, chemistry has been viewed as the central science.
Versus applied science
Basic science develops and establishes information to predict phenomena and perhaps to understand nature, whereas applied science uses portions of basic science to develop interventions via technology or technique to alter events or outcomes. Although applied and basic sciences can interface closely in research and development, applied science is commonly termed engineering, whereas basic science is also termed pure science or sometimes fundamental science.
Basic science includes fundamental physics and many special sciences—natural sciences like astrophysics, biology, chemistry, geology, and perhaps cognitive sciences, too, but generally excluding behavioral sciences like psychology and social sciences like economics—and excludes engineering, medical sciences, and epidemiology, for instance, which are applied sciences, set apart from the basic/pure/fundamental science.
Common, populist errors mistake medicine, technology, and their uses for science. They can be grouped: STM (science, technology & medicine); STS (science, technology & society). Yet, though interrelated and influencing each other, they have divergent journals, aims, cultures, methods, principles, standards, and knowledge. Although the Nobel Prize committee, since 1901, mixes basic with applied sciences for its annual award in Physiology or Medicine, the globe's longest continuing scientific society, the Royal Society of London, awards while holding natural science—that is, physical sciences and biological sciences—apart from applied science, including medical sciences.
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