Branches of science

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The scale of the universe mapped to the branches of science and the hierarchy of science

The main branches of science (also referred to as "sciences", "scientific fields", or "scientific disciplines") are commonly divided into two major groups: social sciences, which study human behavior and societies, and natural sciences, which study natural phenomena (including fundamental forces and biological life). These groupings are empirical sciences, which means the knowledge must be based on observable phenomena and be capable of being tested for its validity by other researchers working under the same conditions.[1]

In addition to empirical sciences, there are the formal sciences, such as mathematics and logic, which use an a priori, as opposed to factual methodology to study formal systems. These three categories make up the fundamental sciences, on top of which are interdisciplinary and applied science, such as engineering and medicine. Specialized scientific fields that exist in all categories can include parts of other scientific disciplines but often possess their own terminology and expertise.[2]

Natural science[edit]

Natural science is a branch of science that seeks to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by applying an empirical and scientific method to the study of the universe. The term natural sciences is used to distinguish it from the social sciences, which apply the scientific method to study human behavior and social patterns; the humanities, which use a critical, or analytical approach to the study of the human condition; and the formal sciences.

Physical science[edit]

Physical Science is an encompassing term for the branches of natural science and science that study non-living systems, in contrast to the life sciences. However, the term "physical" creates an unintended, somewhat arbitrary distinction, since many branches of physical science also study biological phenomena. There is a difference between physical science and physics.

Physics[edit]

Main articles: Physics and Outline of physics

Physics (from Ancient Greek: φύσις physis “nature”) is a natural science that involves the study of matter[3] and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force.[4] More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.[5][6][7]

Physics is one of the oldest academic disciplines, perhaps the oldest through its inclusion of astronomy.[8] Over the last two millennia, physics was a part of natural philosophy along with chemistry, certain branches of mathematics, and biology, but during the Scientific Revolution in the 16th century, the natural sciences emerged as unique research programs in their own right.[9] Certain research areas are interdisciplinary, such as biophysics and quantum chemistry, which means that the boundaries of physics are not rigidly defined. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries physicalism emerged as a major unifying feature of the philosophy of science as physics provides fundamental explanations for every observed natural phenomenon. New ideas in physics often explain the fundamental mechanisms of other sciences, while opening to new research areas in mathematics and philosophy.

Chemistry[edit]

Main articles: Chemistry and Outline of chemistry

Chemistry (the etymology of the word has been much disputed)[10] is the science of matter and the changes it undergoes. The science of matter is also addressed by physics, but while physics takes a more general and fundamental approach, chemistry is more specialized, being concerned with the composition, behavior (or reaction), structure, and properties of matter, as well as the changes it undergoes during chemical reactions.[11] It is a physical science which studies various substances, atoms, molecules, and matter (especially carbon based); biochemistry, the study of substances found in biological organisms; physical chemistry, the study of chemical processes using physical concepts such as thermodynamics and quantum mechanics; and analytical chemistry, the analysis of material samples to gain an understanding of their chemical composition and structure. Many more specialized disciplines have emerged in recent years, e.g. neurochemistry the chemical study of the nervous system (see subdisciplines).

Earth science[edit]

Earth science (also known as geoscience, the geosciences or the Earth sciences) is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth.[12] It is arguably a special case in planetary science, the Earth being the only known life-bearing planet. There are both reductionist and holistic approaches to Earth sciences. The formal discipline of Earth sciences may include the study of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, oceans and biosphere, as well as the solid earth. Typically Earth scientists will use tools from physics, chemistry, biology, geography, chronology and mathematics to build a quantitative understanding of how the Earth system works, and how it evolved to its current state.

Ecology[edit]

Main articles: Ecology and Outline of ecology

Ecology (from Greek: οἶκος, "house"; -λογία, "study of") is the scientific study of the relationships that living organisms have with each other and with their abiotic environment. Topics of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount (biomass), number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems.

Oceanography[edit]

Main article: Oceanography

Oceanology, or marine science, is the branch of Earth science that studies the ocean. It covers a wide range of topics, including marine organisms and ecosystem dynamics; ocean currents, waves, and geophysical fluid dynamics; plate tectonics and the geology of the sea floor; and fluxes of various chemical substances and physical properties within the ocean and across its boundaries. These diverse topics reflect multiple disciplines that oceanographers blend to further knowledge of the world ocean and understanding of processes within it: biology, chemistry, geology, meteorology, and physics as well as geography.

Geology[edit]

Main articles: Geology and Outline of geology

Geology (from the Greek γῆ, gê, "earth" and λόγος, logos, "study") is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change. Geology can also refer generally to the study of the solid features of any celestial body (such as the geology of the Moon or geology of Mars).

Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates. In modern times, geology is commercially important for mineral and hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation and for evaluating water resources. It is publicly important for the prediction and understanding of natural hazards, the remediation of environmental problems, and for providing insights into past climate change. Geology plays a role in geotechnical engineering and is a major academic discipline.

Meteorology[edit]

Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries. After the development of the computer in the latter half of the 20th century, breakthroughs in weather forecasting were achieved.

Life science[edit]

Main article: Life science

Life science comprises the branches of science that involve the scientific study of living organisms, like plants, animals, and human beings. However, the study of behavior of organisms, such as practiced in ethology and psychology, is only included in as much as it involves a clearly biological aspect. While biology remains the centerpiece of life science, technological advances in molecular biology and biotechnology have led to a burgeoning of specializations and new, often interdisciplinary, fields.

Biology[edit]

Main articles: Biology and Outline of biology

Biology is the branch of natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy.[13] Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines.

Zoology[edit]
Main articles: Zoology and Outline of zoology

Zoology /zoʊˈɒlədʒi/, occasionally spelled zoölogy, is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct. The term is derived from Ancient Greek ζῷον (zōon, "animal") + λόγος (logos, "knowledge").

Human biology[edit]

Human biology is an interdisciplinary academic field of biology, biological anthropology, nutrition and medicine which focuses on humans; it is closely related to primate biology, and a number of other fields.

Some branches of biology include: microbiology, anatomy, neurology and neuroscience, immunology, genetics, psychology, physiology, pathology, biophysics, and ophthalmology.

Botany[edit]
Main articles: Botany and Outline of botany

Botany, plant science(s), or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Botany covers a wide range of scientific disciplines including structure, growth, reproduction, metabolism, development, diseases, chemical properties, and evolutionary relationships among taxonomic groups. Botany began with early human efforts to identify edible, medicinal and poisonous plants, making it one of the oldest sciences. Today botanists study over 550,000 species of living organisms. The term "botany" comes from Greek βοτάνη, meaning "pasture, grass, fodder", perhaps via the idea of a livestock keeper needing to know which plants are safe for livestock to eat.

Social sciences[edit]

Main article: Social sciences

The social sciences are the fields of scholarship that study society. "Social science" is commonly used as an umbrella term to refer to a plurality of fields outside of the natural sciences. These include: anthropology, archaeology, business administration, communication, criminology, economics, education, government, linguistics, international relations, political science, psychology (especially social psychology), sociology and, in some contexts, geography, history and law.[14][15]

Formal sciences[edit]

The formal sciences are the branches of knowledge that are concerned with formal systems, such as logic, mathematics, theoretical computer science, information theory, systems theory, decision theory, statistics, and some aspects of linguistics.

Unlike other sciences, the formal sciences are not concerned with the validity of theories based on observations in the real world (empirical knowledge), but rather with the properties of formal systems based on definitions and rules. Methods of the formal sciences are, however, essential to the construction and testing of scientific models dealing with observable reality,[16] and major advances in formal sciences have often enabled major advances in the empirical sciences.

Decision theory[edit]

Main article: Decision theory

Decision theory in economics, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, and statistics is concerned with identifying the values, uncertainties and other issues relevant in a given decision, its rationality, and the resulting optimal decision. It is very closely related to the field of game law.

Logic[edit]

Main articles: Logic and Outline of logic

Logic (from the Greek λογική logikē)[17] is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science. Logic examines general forms which arguments may take, which forms are valid, and which are fallacies. In philosophy, the study of logic figures in most major areas: epistemology, ethics, metaphysics. In mathematics, it is the study of valid inferences within some formal language.[18] Logic is also studied in argumentation theory.[19]

Mathematics[edit]

Mathematics, which is classified as a formal science,[20][21] has both similarities and differences with the empirical sciences (the natural and social sciences). It is similar to empirical sciences in that it involves an objective, careful and systematic study of an area of knowledge; it is different because of its method of verifying its knowledge, using a priori rather than empirical methods.[22]

Statistics[edit]

Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, and interpretation of data.[23][24] It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments.[23]

A statistician is someone who is particularly well versed in the ways of thinking necessary for the successful application of statistical analysis. Such people have often gained this experience through working in any of a wide number of fields. There is also a discipline called mathematical statistics, which is concerned with the theoretical basis of the subject.

The word statistics, when referring to the scientific discipline, is singular, as in "Statistics is an art."[25] This should not be confused with the word statistic, referring to a quantity (such as mean or median) calculated from a set of data,[26] whose plural is statistics ("this statistic seems wrong" or "these statistics are misleading").

Systems theory[edit]

Main article: Systems theory

Systems theory is the transdisciplinary study of systems in general, with the goal of elucidating principles that can be applied to all types of systems in all fields of research. The term does not yet have a well-established, precise meaning, but systems theory can reasonably be considered a specialization of systems thinking and a generalization of systems science. The term originates from Bertalanffy's General System Theory (GST) and is used in later efforts in other fields, such as the action theory of Talcott Parsons and the system-theory of Niklas Luhmann.

In this context the word systems is used to refer specifically to self-regulating systems, i.e. that are self-correcting through feedback. Self-regulating systems are found in nature, including the physiological systems of our body, in local and global ecosystems, and in climate.

Theoretical computer science[edit]

Theoretical computer science (TCS) is a division or subset of general computer science and focuses on more abstract or mathematical aspects of computing.

These divisions and subsets include analysis of algorithms and formal semantics of programming languages. Technically, there are hundreds of divisions and subsets besides these two. Each of the multiple parts have their own individual personal leaders (of popularity) and there are many associations and professional social groups and publications of distinction.

Applied science[edit]

Main article: Applied science

Applied science is the application of scientific knowledge transferred into a physical environment. Examples include testing a theoretical model through the use of formal science or solving a practical problem through the use of natural science.

Applied science differs from fundamental science, which seeks to describe the most basic objects and forces, having less emphasis on practical applications. Applied science can be like biological science and physical science.

Example fields of applied science include

Fields of engineering are closely related to applied sciences. Applied science is important for technology development. Its use in industrial settings is usually referred to as research and development (R&D).

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Popper 2002, p. 20.
  2. ^ See: Editorial Staff (March 7, 2008). "Scientific Method: Relationships among Scientific Paradigms". Seed magazine. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  3. ^ Richard Feynman begins his Lectures with the atomic hypothesis, as his most compact statement of all scientific knowledge: "If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations ..., what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is ... that all things are made up of atoms – little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. ..." R.P. Feynman, R.B. Leighton, M. Sands (1963). The Feynman Lectures on Physics 1. p. I-2. ISBN 0-201-02116-1. 
  4. ^ J.C. Maxwell (1878). Matter and Motion. D. Van Nostrand. p. 9. ISBN 0-486-66895-9. "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regular succession of events." 
  5. ^ H.D. Young, R.A. Freedman (2004). University Physics with Modern Physics (11th ed.). Addison Wesley. p. 2. "Physics is an experimental science. Physicists observe the phenomena of nature and try to find patterns and principles that relate these phenomena. These patterns are called physical theories or, when they are very well established and of broad use, physical laws or principles." 
  6. ^ S. Holzner (2006). Physics for Dummies. Wiley. p. 7. ISBN 0-470-61841-8. "Physics is the study of your world and the world and universe around you." 
  7. ^ Note: The term 'universe' is defined as everything that physically exists: the entirety of space and time, all forms of matter, energy and momentum, and the physical laws and constants that govern them. However, the term 'universe' may also be used in slightly different contextual senses, denoting concepts such as the cosmos or the philosophical world.
  8. ^ Evidence exists that the earliest civilizations dating back to beyond 3000 BCE, such as the Sumerians, Ancient Egyptians, and the Indus Valley Civilization, all had a predictive knowledge and a very basic understanding of the motions of the Sun, Moon, and stars.
  9. ^ Francis Bacon's 1620 Novum Organum was critical in the development of scientific method.
  10. ^ See: Chemistry (etymology) for possible origins of this word.
  11. ^ Chemistry. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
  12. ^ Wordnet Search: Earth science
  13. ^ Based on definition from Aquarena Wetlands Project glossary of terms.
  14. ^ Verheggen; et al. (1999). "From shared representations to consensually coordinated actions". In Morrs, John; et al.. Theoretical Issues in Psychology. International Society for Theoretical Psychology. 
  15. ^ Garai, L.; Kocski, M. (1995). "Another crisis in the psychology: A possible motive for the Vygotsky-boom". Journal of Russian and East-European Psychology 33 (1): 82–94. doi:10.2753/RPO1061-0405330182. 
  16. ^ Popper 2002, pp. 79–82.
  17. ^ "possessed of reason, intellectual, dialectical, argumentative", also related to λόγος (logos), "word, thought, idea, argument, account, reason, or principle" (Liddell & Scott 1999; Online Etymology Dictionary 2001).
  18. ^ Hofweber, T. (2004). "Logic and Ontology". In Zalta, Edward N. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 
  19. ^ Cox, J. Robert; Willard, Charles Arthur, eds. (1983). Advances in Argumentation Theory and Research. Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 978-0-8093-1050-0. 
  20. ^ Marcus Tomalin (2006) Linguistics and the Formal Sciences
  21. ^ Benedikt Löwe (2002) "The Formal Sciences: Their Scope, Their Foundations, and Their Unity"
  22. ^ Popper 2002, pp. 10–11.
  23. ^ a b Dodge, Y. (2003) The Oxford Dictionary of Statistical Terms, OUP. ISBN 0-19-920613-9
  24. ^ The Free Online Dictionary
  25. ^ "Statistics". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 
  26. ^ "Statistic". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 

References[edit]

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