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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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A mirror neuron
A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal performs an action and when the animal observes the same action performed by another (especially conspecific) animal. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of another animal, as though the observer were himself performing the action. These neurons have been observed in primates and in some birds. In humans, they have been found in Broca's area and the inferior parietal cortex of the brain. Some scientists consider mirror neurons one of the most important findings of neuroscience in the last decade. See for example, an essay by Ramachandran on their potential importance in imitation and language.

In humans, mirror neurons are found in the inferior frontal cortex, close to Broca's area, a language region. This has led to suggestions that human language evolved from a gesture performance/understanding system implemented in mirror neurons. However, like many theories of language evolution, there is little direct evidence either way.

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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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Brian Greene
Brian Greene (born February 9, 1963, New York), is a physicist at Columbia University. His book The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, and winner of The Aventis Prizes for Science Books in 2000. The Elegant Universe was later made into a PBS television special with Dr. Greene as the narrator. His second book, The Fabric of the Cosmos (2004), is about space, time, and the nature of the universe. Aspects covered in this book include non-local particle entanglement as he relates to special relativity and basic explanations of string theory. It is an examination of the very nature of matter and reality, covering such topics as spacetime and cosmology, origins and unification, and including an exploration into reality and the imagination.

Did you know...


  • ...that coloration is a property of loudspeakers that causes the speaker to continue to emit sound when an electrical signal stops?
  • ...that the two human atria do not have valves at their inlets?

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