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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; along with the changing of "natural philosophy" to "natural science."

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.

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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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The first color movie of Jupiter from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows what it would look like to peel the entire globe of Jupiter, stretch it out on a wall into the form of a rectangular map, and watch its atmosphere evolve with time.
Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

The cloud pattern on Jupiter is the visible system of colored cloud tops in the atmosphere of the planet Jupiter, remarkable for its stability. Astronomers have given names to parts of this pattern, using the word zone for the light stripes and belt for the dark stripes along various latitudes. The pattern and intensity of its belts and zones are famously variable, often changing markedly from one opposition to the next.

The normal pattern of bands and zones is sometimes disrupted for a period of time, in events that astronomers call "disturbances". The longest-lived disturbance in recorded history was a "Southern Tropical Disturbance" (STropD) from 1901 until 1939, discovered by Percy B. Molesworth on February 28, 1901. It created a darkened feature over a range of longitudes in the normally bright Southern Tropical zone.

Selected biography

Portrait of Galilei Galileo by Giusto Sustermans.
Galileo Galilei (February 15, 1564 – January 8, 1642) was an Italian physicist, astronomer, and philosopher who is closely associated with the scientific revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope, a variety of astronomical observations, the first and second laws of motion, and effective support for Copernicanism. According to Stephen Hawking, Galileo has contributed more to the creation of the modern natural sciences than anybody else. He is the "father of modern astronomy," the "father of modern physics," and the "father of science." The work of Galilei is considered to be a significant break from that of Aristotle.

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by Jon Lomberg

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