How Science changed the world
Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science
By: Dr. Ashaq Hussain
Modern age aptly deserves the title of ‘Age of Science. Scientists have made use of science for the benefit of man and society. They have used scientific principles, laws, and facts to invent and develop machines of different kinds. If we miraculously bring the most intelligent people from 1900 into today’s world, they would be simply astonished at how we now understand things that had puzzled humans for centuries. Just over a hundred years ago, people had no idea how we inherit and pass on traits or how a single cell could grow into an organism. They didn’t know that atoms themselves had structure – the word itself means indivisible. They didn’t know that matter has very strange properties that defy common sense. Or why there is gravity. And they had no idea how things began, whether it was life on earth or the universe itself. Today, with the help of basic discoveries, we can answer or at least begin to answer those mysteries. These answers have changed our perception of the universe and our own daily lives. Even the things we don’t care about today have come into being because of basic science and technology, and they both go hand in hand.
Science has revolutionized the world. Our lives have become more luxurious and comfortable. It is a potent source of power packed with enormous energy, which is capable of doing good to man. But if it is used for destroying, annihilating or degrading the human race, its habitat or other elements of the universes, it can show its teeth and destroy its creators or perpetrators in return. As there is great likelihood of its being used in the wrong way, science is certainly capable of doing more harm than good. However science has made our lives happier in many ways. Science has transformed transportation magically as now the supersonic jet can take the man to the farthest end of the world in hours, and the rocket can take him to the moon and even beyond. The fast moving submarine can pierce through the seawater under the surface to long distances.
There have been many great moments in science in these hundred years. Such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. But the discovery itself was made possible by Darwin and Mendel, who later opened the door to biotechnology. Today we can easily examine the complete human DNA (called ‘genome’). This has helped us to understand how genetic diseases occur and how they can be cured. Scientists recently modified a girl’s genes to rule out cancer.
Today we know that the universe began with a single cell. However, the human genome is so complex that we have only recently begun to understand how genes interact with the environment to run our body’s systems. The Big Bang Theory tells us how the universe came into being. One hundred years ago, only religion was able to answer this question. When we found out that the universe is not static but is constantly expanding and galaxies are moving away from each other. Thus it can be guessed that in the beginning all matter was concentrated in one place and the universe came into existence as a result of a great explosion. This knowledge has provided us with the material to answer the biggest question, from where did everything come from? This has made our little planet to look even smaller, but still increasing longing for knowledge within us has prevented us from feeling inferior.
Space discoveries have made us more curious about the universe. From the Apollo mission to the Cassini spacecraft and from the Hubble Space Telescope to the discovery of gravitational waves, all these revelations prompt us to find answers to more questions about space. Today we see the world largely on an electronic screen. The technological advances of modern science have revolutionized our life patterns. The electronics industry started in the early 20th century, has reached unimaginable heights of development. Electronics, besides (in addition to) developing the computer, has caused the perfection of new communications devices that include the radio, television, and laser. Thanks to many basic discoveries, one of the most common things of today is the Smartphone. The computer inside it works with the help of integrated chip. The integrated chip itself is made up of transistors, which could not have been discovered without an understanding of quantum mechanics. The GPS inside the phone works on Einstein’s theory of relativity to understand the concept of time. However, at one time people thought that this ideology would not have any effect on ordinary life.
To sum up, man’s searching mind was projected into the realm of the unknown after many social and political upheavals. Man had somewhat stabilized himself. But as said above science treads on two parallel roads—leading to the targets of doing good to mankind and also doing harm to it. Right now we have machines that can learn on their own and they are changing our world. Computers have great potential for advancement in health and social fields, and we will soon see driverless cars and modern robots among us, but we will have to think very carefully and make decisions about how we use intelligent machines. Inventions are neither morally bad nor good; our use makes them good or bad. One discovery that divided us into two parts was the division of the atom (atom bomb). This discovery paved the way for the invention of the world’s most dangerous weapon. Fear of catastrophe has brought peace, but the situation is not very lasting. Some say the fear of total destruction is a guarantee of lasting peace. Besides atom bomb and other nuclear bombs, the different kinds of automatic weapons, bomber planes, and warships are some other examples of its destructive use.
Science is the name we give to this quest for knowledge. Man is rightly or wrongly under the impression that this, what he calls science. This quest has also changed our perceptions of the world and our lives. Today our age is double that of 1900 and our standard of living is better than ever. But the use of science and technology has not only affected scientists but has equally affected social, cultural, economic and political factors too. Science is the triumph of human knowledge, and understanding and applying it can help us make far-reaching decisions. Human is now in a position to say that he has begun to understand the mysteries of nature and learnt that all that he had learnt so far, was true. However he has admitted that a lot remains beyond the realm of his knowledge and that the knowledge level acquired by him is only a tip of the iceberg of knowledge. Science was at least as old as, if not older than man himself. Science is supreme knowledge, and it should be used for the supreme good of all human beings. It must be used in a way that leads to human happiness and prosperity and not in a way that leads to human agonies, chaos and decimation of the blue-green planet. Science must take us away from the abysmal depths of despair, death and destruction.
The writer is Assistant Professor, Chemistry, at Govt. Degree College Chatroo and can be reached at [email protected]