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Fundamental science is either fundamental physics or basic science. To the phenomena or explanations of certain sciences, the term fundamental science attributes a causal or conceptual priority according to either of two, differing distinctions. More commonly, fundamental science is fundamental physics, held to underlie special sciences. Less commonly, fundamental science is basic science, distinguished from applied science.
Viewed as the fundamental science, fundamental physics underlies all other sciences—the special sciences—that rest upon, and in principle are derivable from, or conversely are reducible to, the objects and laws of fundamental physics. Less commonly, fundamental science is synonym to basic science, also termed pure science—principally physics, chemistry, and biology—held apart from applied sciences like engineering and biomedicine, which develop technology or techniques through translating portions of basic science.
Versus special science
Modeling fundamental interactions, fundamental physics is recognized in philosophy of science as fundamental science, presumed to be more basic than, that is, to underlie, all other sciences—such as astrophysics, chemistry, biology, geology, psychology, and economics—categorized as special sciences. Whereas fundamental physics has sought laws of universal regularity, special sciences normally include ceteris paribus laws, which are predictively accurate to high probability in "normal conditions" or with "all else equal", but have exceptions.
Not ceteris paribus, chemistry's laws seem exceptionless in their domain, and developed without the severe metaphysical and epistemological challenges encountered by physics concerning the natures of substance, space, and time, or encountered by biological sciences concerning the natures of life and mind. Yet chemistry's laws were presumably reduced to fundamental physics—to quantum mechanics and then quantum electrodynamics—and so chemistry is special science. For bridging physical sciences to biological sciences via biochemistry, however, chemistry has been viewed as the central science.
Versus applied science
Basic science is development and establishment of information to aid understanding of the world, whereas applied science uses portions of basic science to develop technology or technique establishing interventions to alter events or outcomes as desired. Although applied science can interface closely with basic science in contexts of research and development, applied science is commonly termed engineering, whereas basic science is often termed pure science. Basic or pure science has also, if less commonly, been called "fundamental science".
In this sense, fundamental science includes fundamental physics along with many special sciences—astrophysics, biology, chemistry, geology, and so on, within natural science and perhaps cognitive sciences, 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 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 publish in different journals and have divergent aims, cultures, methods, principles, standards, and knowledge. Although the Nobel Prize committee, continuing its tradition begun in 1901, mixes basic science with applied science to annually award a single Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the globe's longest continuing scientific society, the Royal Society of London, categorizes its awards by holding physical sciences and biological sciences apart from applied science, including apart from medical sciences.
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