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Science is the methodical study of nature including testable explanations and predictions. From classical antiquity through the 19th century, science as a type of knowledge was more closely linked to philosophy than it is now and, in fact, in the Western world, the term "natural philosophy" encompassed fields of study that are today associated with science, such as astronomy, medicine, and physics. However, during the Islamic Golden Age foundations for the scientific method were laid by Ibn al-Haytham in his Book of Optics. While the classification of the material world by the ancient Indians and Greeks into air, earth, fire and water was more philosophical, medieval Middle Easterns used practical, experimental observation to classify materials.

Today, the ever-evolving term "science" refers to the pursuit of knowledge, not the knowledge itself. It is often synonymous with "natural and physical science" and often restricted to those branches of study relating to the phenomena of the material universe and their laws. Although the term implies exclusion of pure mathematics, many university faculties include Mathematics Departments within their Faculty of Science. The dominant sense in ordinary use has a narrower use for the term "science." It developed as a part of science becoming a distinct enterprise of defining the "laws of nature"; early examples include Kepler's laws, Galileo's laws, and Newton's laws of motion. In this period it became more common to refer to natural philosophy as "natural science." Over the course of the 19th century, the word "science" became increasingly associated with the disciplined study of the natural world, including physics, chemistry, geology and biology. This sometimes left the study of human thought and society in a linguistic limbo, which was resolved by classifying these areas of academic study as social science. For example, psychology evolved from philosophy, and has grown into an area of study.

Currently, there are both "hard" (e.g. biological psychology) and "soft" science (e.g. social psychology) fields within the discipline. As a result, and as is consistent with the unfolding of the study of knowledge and development of methods to establish facts, each area of psychology employs a scientific method. Reflecting the evolution of the development of knowledge and established facts and the use of the scientific method, Psychology Departments in universities are found within: Faculty of Arts and Science, Faculty of Arts, and a Faculty of Science. Similarly, several other major areas of disciplined study and knowledge exist today under the general rubric of "science", such as formal science and applied science.

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New horizons (NASA)
New Horizons is a NASA unmanned spacecraft designed to fly by Pluto and its moons (including Charon) and transmit images and data back to Earth. Mission planners hope that NASA will approve plans to continue the mission with a fly-by of a Kuiper Belt Object and return further data. A consortium of organizations, led by Southwest Research Institute and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, has built the craft. The mission's principal investigator is S. Alan Stern of Southwest Research. The probe successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 14:00 EST January 19, 2006 and flew past Jupiter on February 28, 2007 for a gravity assist.

The primary scientific objectives are to characterize the global geology and morphology and map the surface composition of Pluto and Charon, and study the neutral atmosphere of Pluto and its escape rate. Other objectives include studying time variability of Pluto's surface and atmosphere; imaging and mapping areas of Pluto and Charon at high-resolution; characterizing Pluto's upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and energetic particle environment; searching for an atmosphere around Charon; refining bulk parameters of Pluto and Charon; and searching for additional satellites and rings.

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Moon Dedal crater.jpg
Credit: Apollo 11 Crew, NASA

The far side of the Moon as photographed by the crew of Apollo 11. The largest crater pictured is the Daedalus crater.

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Santiago Ramón y Cajal
Santiago Ramón y Cajal (May 1, 1852 – October 17, 1934) was a famous Spanish histologist, physician, and Nobel laureate, and is considered to be one of the founders of modern neuroscience. His most famous studies were on the fine structure of the central nervous system. Cajal used a histological staining technique developed by his contemporary, Camillo Golgi, allowing him to resolve, in detail, the structure of individual neurons. This led him to conclude that nervous tissue was a continuous reticulum (or web) of interconnected cells, much like those in the circulatory system. Using Golgi's method, Ramón y Cajal reached a very different conclusion; he postulated that the nervous system is made up of billions of separate neurons and that these cells are polarized. Rather than forming a continuous web, Cajal suggested that neurons communicate with each other via specialized junctions called "synapses". This hypothesis became the basis of the neuron doctrine, which states that the individual unit of the nervous system is a single neuron. Electron microscopy later showed that a plasma membrane completely enclosed each neuron, supporting Cajal's theory, and weakening Golgi's reticular theory.

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by Jon Lomberg

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