International Science and Peace Week is celebrated every year within the week: 9th to 14th November. World Science Day for Peace and Development is held on 10th November and the theme for this year is “Science, a Human Right”- since it is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The words “Science, a Human Right” could not be more true in meaning. Humans and science have always been interlinked- observation and thought has been a human trait since the time of the early man. We observed the world around ourselves to see things that existed in nature and observed that which changed over time. Humans have a mind that can not only interpret the actions of nature but also apply them to their suitability. Physics and astronomy were arguably the very first sciences that our curious species explored. Since time immemorial humans have been fascinated by the sky that lay above them. They didn’t just look up and walk on- they saw what was above and remembered it every single day. They noticed points of light moving across the darkness of the sky; some faster than the others; but each with a pattern.They then started to sort out the ones which didn’t follow the previous set of rules and knew them to be ‘planets’.
Physics was followed by chemistry. When forest fires broke out the humans watched them with awe. They dreamed of controlling it one day; because other animals were scared of it. Thus, controlling the fire meant dominion over all other species on Earth. Then technology came their way- round stones and logs rolled down the hills- and they discovered the wheel.
But the scientific path that the humans took wasn’t very clear initially- for all the things they could not understand, humans found explanations in superstitions, demons and spirits, yet they were progressing everyday and made some remarkable achievements. One such achievement can be seen in the form of the everlasting Iron Pillar in Delhi, which exhibits some serious work in the field of metallurgy. Even with today’s science such a creation isn’t possible as such. Then there was alchemy, an ancient science in the medieval Europe that sought a stone that could give an individual eternal life and the ability to transform Plumbum (lead) to Aurum (gold). They called it the Philosopher’s Stone. However, the researches done in alchemy gave rise to modern chemistry.
It wasn’t until somewhere around the fourteenth or the fifteenth century, that scientific research was conducted by the scientific method that we follow today. Scientific method follows that if and only if the experiment satisfies the result of the theorized set of values, the theory is true. Thus any law or theory created must satisfy the practical observations of nature itself.
When the industrial revolution came into being, (thanks to an eccentric scientist named James Watt who was amazed by the steam’s power while making his morning tea) with the steam engines and printing press, technology plummeted sky high and took leaps and bounds. Then there came a man named Alan Turing who was responsible for decoding an unbreakable code- the Enigma, the German code language that reoriented itself everyday. To do it he created, with the help of transistors (which developed into integrated circuits, IC in the late 20th century), the first computer. After that when the mobile phone was developed from the idea of telephone (by Alexander Graham Bell), it took a bare ten years or so to make it “smart”.
The revolutionary inventions of our era are LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) and the two greatest creations of CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) and the World Wide Web (www). While one helps us to split the atom, the other is like a divine interpreter. LIGO is like an ear that listens to the music of the universe; its gravitational disturbances produced by massive, rapidly moving bodies, like two black holes or neutron stars revolving around each other or spinning rapidly. Such a motion of heavy bodies sends out waves or ripples in the fabric of space-time. These ripples stretch and compress the very fabric of reality by an extremely small factor. The waves are then interpreted by the detector through laser interferometry (i.e. by measuring the change in the lengths of laser arms due to the stretching and compressing of space-time), which measures sensitive disturbances in lengths as small as the thousandth of the radius of a single proton. When it comes to the complex mathematics that concerns black hole’s formation, gravity, mass and other such factors, Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyenger’s equations are more helpful than ever.
CERN on the other hand has split the atom and shown us a whole new world embedded in our reality. Theoretical physics has reached a point where the technology cannot cope up and the very existence of reality is questioned.
Recently, the Voyager 2 spacecraft launched by NASA on 20th of August, 1977 was reported to be approaching interstellar space, making it the only man made object to go that far away from our home-planet, Earth. And Parker Solar Probe has survived temperatures that no human creation ever has before and has gone closer to the sun than any other satellite has gone before. It reported A status, indicating it’s in perfectly intact condition. And not only that, as it flew towards the sun using the gravity of Venus to gain speed, it became the fastest satellite as well.
Humans began with striking stones. They almost destroyed each other with nuclear power; and the planet with proton and antimatter collisions yet we are still here- exploring the infinite universe slowly and steadily.
Science was, is, and will always be an object of fascination for humans. And as long as the mind is free and can think, science will remain the birth right of any human being.
This article was contributed by Edudigm’s student Tisyagupta Pyne