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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.

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

Teflon is polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a polymer of fluorinated ethylene.
Teflon is the brand name of the polymer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) discovered by Roy J. Plunkett (1910–1994) of DuPont in 1938 and introduced as a commercial product in 1946. It is a fluoropolymer but not a thermoplastic in the true sense.

PTFE has the lowest coefficient of friction of any known solid material. It is used as a non-stick coating for pans and other cookware. PTFE is very non-reactive and is often used in containers and pipework for reactive chemicals. Its melting point is 327°C, but its properties degrade above 260°C. At this point gaseous fluorine compounds are released that are dangerous to humans.

Other polymers with similar composition are known by the Teflon name: fluorinated ethylene-propylene (FEP) and perfluoroalkoxy polymer resin (PFA). They retain the useful properties of PTFE of low friction and non-reactivity, but are more easily formable. FEP is softer than PTFE and melts at 260°C; it is highly transparent and resistant to sunlight.

Selected image

DC plasma (violet) enhances the growth of carbon nanotubes in this laboratory-scale PECVD apparatus.
Credit: Polyparadigm

Direct current-generated plasma (violet) enhances the growth of carbon nanotubes in this laboratory-scale PECVD apparatus. Plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition processes utilize plasma to enhance chemical reaction rates. PECVD processing allows deposition at lower temperatures, which is often critical in the manufacture of semiconductors. The red color in the picture is black-body radiation.

Selected biography

Frank Macfarlane Burnet at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, 1945
Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet (3 September 1899 – 31 August 1985) was an Australian virologist best known for his contributions to immunology. He went on to conduct pioneering research on bacteriophages and viruses at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and served as director of the Institute from 1944 to 1956. His virology research resulted in significant discoveries concerning their nature and replication and their interaction with the immune system.

From the mid-1950s, he worked extensively in immunology and was a major contributor to the theory of clonal selection, which explains how lymphocytes target antigens for destruction. Burnet and Peter Medawar were co-recipients of the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for demonstrating acquired immune tolerance. This research provided the experimental basis for inducing immune tolerance, the platform for developing methods of transplanting solid organs.

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