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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.

Selected article

Mean surface temperature anomalies during the period 1995 to 2004 with respect to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980.
Global warming is the observed increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans in recent decades.

The Earth's average near-surface atmospheric temperature rose 0.6 ± 0.2 degree Celsius (1.1 ± 0.4 degree Fahrenheit) in the 20th century [1]. A widespread scientific opinion on climate change is that "most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities"[2].

The increased amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are the primary causes of the human-induced component of warming[3]. They are released by the burning of fossil fuels, land clearing and agriculture, etc. and lead to an increase in the greenhouse effect. The first speculation that a greenhouse effect might occur was by the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius in 1897, although it did not become a topic of popular debate until some 90 years later.

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The Hubble Space Telescope as seen from the Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-82.
Credit: NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a telescope in orbit around the Earth, named after astronomer Edwin Hubble for his discovery of galaxies outside the Milky Way and his creation of Hubble's law, which calculates the rate at which the universe is expanding. Its position outside the Earth's atmosphere allows it to take sharp optical images of very faint objects, and since its launch in 1990, it has become one of the most important instruments in the history of astronomy. It has been responsible for many ground-breaking observations and has helped astronomers achieve a better understanding of many fundamental problems in astrophysics. Hubble's Ultra-Deep Field is the deepest (most sensitive) astronomical optical image ever taken.

Selected biography

Carl Edward Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, astrobiologist, and highly successful science popularizer. He pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). He is world-famous for writing popular science books and for co-writing and presenting the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which was the most-watched PBS program until Ken Burns' The Civil War in 1990. A book to accompany the program was also published. He also wrote the novel Contact, the basis for the 1997 film of the same name starring Jodie Foster. During his lifetime, Sagan published more than 600 scientific papers and popular articles and was author, co-author, or editor of more than 20 books. In his works, he frequently advocated scientific skepticism, humanism, and the scientific method.

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