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Thread: 10 Greatest Scientific Discoveries

  1. #1
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    10 Greatest Scientific Discoveries

    I wasn't real sure where to post this but it does have several astronomy related ones in it. If it needs to be moved please do.

    http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/featur...ficdiscoveries

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    Hmm. I'm not sure i'd have put the Pythagorean theorem in there. The idea of mathematical proofs is a good one, but not all that closely related to science. Pythagoras and Aristotle seemed more on the side of numerical mysticism, a belief system antithetical to science. It would have been nicer to work in Archimedes somehow.

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    I'd have to question Pythagoras as well. I agree that he was one of the greatest and most influential mathematicians to ever live. However, it would be more accurate to say that he was merging Mathematics and Philosophy than Math & Physics. Also, he was not open with his findings. From what I've read, he formed a secret society to guard the secrets of the universe they learned. Finally, some question whether the Pythagorean Theorem was created by Pythgoras or one of his students. Pythagoras adamantly denied the existance of irrational numbers since they did not fit into the Philisophical view of an imperfect universe, and the Pythagorean Theorem very easily leads to the conclusion of irrational numbers. Of course, this will probably never be answered conclusively.

    Personally, I would have probably substituted either Euclid's 5 Axiom's of (Euclean) Geometry, or Archimedes' development of Integral Calculus almost 2000 years before Newton.

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    I agree there are some I would change as well so lets setup our own list.

    1. Microorganisms(ok I am a little biased here but it does affect everyones life daily)

    2. Theory of Evolution.

    3. Laws of motion.

    4. Heliocentric theory.
    .................................................t hose would be my top four I have to think a while on the rest.

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    What about spoken language and written word, could they be included?

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    I don't know if they are really classified as scientific in nature. So for right now lets not. Maybe another thread in babbling to address this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tuffel999
    I don't know if they are really classified as scientific in nature. So for right now lets not. Maybe another thread in babbling to address this?
    Agreed, it does fit better in Babbling, but maybe we can bring it back again to astronomy. Astronomy has been called the first science, but there don't appear to be any purely astronomical entries here. What astronomical discoveries would you put as most influential as science as a whole?

    I'll throw some out, just for starters:

    Unknown--seasons. Nature has regular patterns; these can be predicted with some accuracy.

    Unknown--eclipses. Eclipses also follow a regular pattern. (i'm not too keen on this one, but i thought i'd throw it out)

    Ancient greek attempts to measure the size of the earth, the distance to the moon, the distance to the sun (well, that one didn't work so well).

    Copernicus--the Earth is not the center of the Universe (but planets still moved in epicycles).

    Kepler--planetary orbits follow certain fixed laws, tides, philosophy that the Universe followed certain laws, which could be determined by observation.

    Galileo--laws of motion, observation of "hidden" astronomical objects, observation of moons of Jupiter (and some blatant examples of objects which did not revolve about the earth).

    Newton

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    As difficult as it is to pick only ten, I think a few others are worth mentioning.

    Faraday's Law of Induction (as well as his statement of the conservation of energy)

    The development of quantum mechanics

    Maxwell's Theories

    A lot of the Greek mathematicians (Archimedes, Euclid immeadiately come to mind)

    I'm sure there are many others, but these are just a quick few I thought of.

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    Greatest discoveries

    here's a few I'd add

    Calculus: Isaac Newton, Gauss, et al
    Computer Science: Alan Turing, Babbage, et al

    There is another major great scientific discovery that has been overlooked. The discovery of the beneficial effects of caffeine when ingested by human beings. This discovery has arguably benefitted science and humanity as a whole more than anything else I can think of.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Normandy6644
    I think a few others are worth mentioning.
    <snip>
    Maxwell's Theories
    As soon as I saw the list I immediately thought of Maxwell too. I figured Mendel & Volta should have been off the list in favour of Maxwell and another chemist. All of chemistry gets only one item on the list! My vote (combined physics/chemisty) would be for understanding of radioactive elements and research into nuclear reactions.

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    In line with seasons and eclipses, why hasn't anyone suggested fire and the wheel yet?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Donwulff
    In line with seasons and eclipses, why hasn't anyone suggested fire and the wheel yet?
    Because those were taught to us by aliens, obviously.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daver
    Hmm. I'm not sure i'd have put the Pythagorean theorem in there. The idea of mathematical proofs is a good one, but not all that closely related to science.
    As it says, "But it's not the theorem per se that matters; it's the bigger idea it reflected. Pythagoras taught that numbers were the real reality, that the core of the physical world was mathematical."

    It's not the idea of proofs--it's the idea that reality can be expressed mathematically. That's fundamental to physics.

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    Sliced Bread! :P

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    The most important discoveries in my opinion in no particular order:

    1. Penicillin
    2. Transistors
    3. Plastics
    4. Gunpowder
    5. Heavier than air flight
    6. Internal combustion engines
    7. Longitudinal clocks
    8. Metallurgy (from copper to bronze to iron to steel and now into composites)
    9. Animal Husbandry (domestication and breeding of animals to enhance benficial traits)
    10. Agriculture (domestication and breeding of plants to produce beneficial traits)

    Maybe not the most profound list, but the most practical and influential to humanity at large.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daver
    Astronomy has been called the first science,
    Why astronomy and not agriculture?

    Quote Originally Posted by dDoodler
    10. Agriculture (domestication and breeding of plants to produce beneficial traits)
    OK, someone mentioned it, at least!

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    Quote Originally Posted by kilopi
    Quote Originally Posted by daver
    Hmm. I'm not sure i'd have put the Pythagorean theorem in there. The idea of mathematical proofs is a good one, but not all that closely related to science.
    As it says, "But it's not the theorem per se that matters; it's the bigger idea it reflected. Pythagoras taught that numbers were the real reality, that the core of the physical world was mathematical."

    It's not the idea of proofs--it's the idea that reality can be expressed mathematically. That's fundamental to physics.
    No. Being able to measure and express relationships mathematically is fundamental to physics. But the idea that numbers were the real reality is pure mysticism, and has nothing to do with physics or science--it's further from physics than astrology is from astronomy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nebularain
    Quote Originally Posted by daver
    Astronomy has been called the first science,
    Why astronomy and not agriculture?
    I don't know--maybe because nobody listens to farmers?

    I suppose for a real answer you'd need to find some way of characterising "science".

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    Why astronomy and not agriculture?
    People were probably pontificating about the stars before they were growing crops or hearding animals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daver
    No. Being able to measure and express relationships mathematically is fundamental to physics. But the idea that numbers were the real reality is pure mysticism, and has nothing to do with physics or science--it's further from physics than astrology is from astronomy.
    Well, Pythagorus did precede astrology, so that makes sense that it is less like our modern science. However, I don't think you can dismiss their contribution as just mysticism--the pythagorean theorem is too useful. Three hundred years later, Euclid codified geometry, and we all know how important that was to physical theory--but no one complains that lines and planes are not "real."

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    Quote Originally Posted by kilopi
    Well, Pythagorus did precede astrology, so that makes sense that it is less like our modern science. However, I don't think you can dismiss their contribution as just mysticism--the pythagorean theorem is too useful. Three hundred years later, Euclid codified geometry, and we all know how important that was to physical theory--but no one complains that lines and planes are not "real."
    Hmm, i thought Babylonian astrology was quite a bit older. And I agree that the Pythagorean theorem is useful, but it was known long before Pythagoras. The use of geometry to measure land also predates Pythagoras. There is a claim that the Pythagoreans helped to abstract the concept of number (2+2=4, not 2 ships + 2 ships = 4 ships); this is certainly an important step, but I'm not certain how original this was to Pythagoras.

    I agree that Pythagoras and his society were important to the development of mathematics (which could have been even more important if he hadn't founded his society as a mystery cult); it's his contribution to science that i disagree with (his society did recognize that Venus was both the morning star and the evening star, something i think the Babylonians missed).

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    Quote Originally Posted by daver
    ([Pythagoras's] society did recognize that Venus was both the morning star and the evening star, something I think the Babylonians missed).
    Not true. The Venus tablets record the risings and settings of Venus for the 21 years of the reign of Ammi-saduqa, King of Babylon. His dates are disputed but I'd place him around 1420-1400 BCE, almost a millennium before Pythagoras.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daver
    Quote Originally Posted by nebularain
    Quote Originally Posted by daver
    Astronomy has been called the first science,
    Why astronomy and not agriculture?
    I don't know--maybe because nobody listens to farmers?

    I suppose for a real answer you'd need to find some way of characterising "science".
    Dealing with plants = Biology = Science. :wink:

    Quote Originally Posted by Musashi
    People were probably pontificating about the stars before they were growing crops or hearding animals.
    Were they "pontification about the stars" scientifically or religiously?

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    Quote Originally Posted by daver
    Hmm, i thought Babylonian astrology was quite a bit older.
    I assumed you meant the modern astrology, when you compared it to astronomy.
    And I agree that the Pythagorean theorem is useful, but it was known long before Pythagoras. The use of geometry to measure land also predates Pythagoras. There is a claim that the Pythagoreans helped to abstract the concept of number (2+2=4, not 2 ships + 2 ships = 4 ships); this is certainly an important step, but I'm not certain how original this was to Pythagoras.
    That's a dispute over priority, but the list is not a list of discovers per se, it's a list of discoveries. Whoever first discovered the pythagorean theorem, it's still called the pythagorean theorem. The list goes on to point out that it represents humankind's recognition of math as one of the fundamentals to the understanding of the world around us.
    I agree that Pythagoras and his society were important to the development of mathematics (which could have been even more important if he hadn't founded his society as a mystery cult); it's his contribution to science that i disagree with
    Again, the pythagorean society is not on the list.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eroica
    Not true. The Venus tablets record the risings and settings of Venus for the 21 years of the reign of Ammi-saduqa, King of Babylon. His dates are disputed but I'd place him around 1420-1400 BCE, almost a millennium before Pythagoras.
    Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doodler
    The most important discoveries in my opinion in no particular order:

    1. Penicillin
    2. Transistors
    3. Plastics
    4. Gunpowder
    5. Heavier than air flight
    6. Internal combustion engines
    7. Longitudinal clocks
    8. Metallurgy (from copper to bronze to iron to steel and now into composites)
    9. Animal Husbandry (domestication and breeding of animals to enhance benficial traits)
    10. Agriculture (domestication and breeding of plants to produce beneficial traits)

    Maybe not the most profound list, but the most practical and influential to humanity at large.
    I am with Doodler here. I am a big fan of gunpowder. It ended the tyranny of the armored knight and the whole feudal system. Social change aside, it was the first practical application of chemical energy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kilopi
    The list goes on to point out that it represents humankind's recognition of math as one of the fundamentals to the understanding of the world around us.
    I agree with his (and your) point, that math is essential to understanding how the world works, i don't think that the Pythagorean theorem is a particularly good example of this. I'd really like something more tied to physics and experimentation--v=at or thereabouts. But the earliest examples of those i can think of are a couple of millenia later.

    The author makes a few other statements about Pythagoras that seem dubious: one, that Pythagoras went around telling everyone about his theory, and two, that Pythagoras would have been proud of Newton for developing his laws of motion. The first doesn't seem likely to me, in that Pythagoras and his society were very much a secret society--they only shared their findings with members. The second is perhaps colored by my impression of some later Greek philosophers (like Aristotle), but i just don't think he would be that impressed by f = ma.

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    Guys...guys...
    What the list says is the Pythagorean Theorem. Contrary to what terminology might suggest, the Pythagorean Theorem was known well before Pythagoras, the man. The ancient Babylonians used it. Practically all human civilizations eventually discovered it, often independently.

    And I agree with the inclusion of the PT in the list. It isn't too much of an exaggeration to say that it's the one of first "big" results in mathematics, and it's indirectly related to physics, through geometry.

    Oops! Edited to censor two errors. ops:

    And here is an example of how, in a way, we're still living in the shadow of the PT.

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    As an archetype I have to agree with the Pythagorean Theorem being there (whether it was Pythagoras or Roger Bacon who actually dicsovered it is irrelevant). I also disagree with the reason it is there (at least as I understood it after reading).

    It was the concept of logical proof that was important. Whether it was Tahles or Pythy or whomever, the formal idea of a proof was a startling innovation. The Egyptians had 3/4/5 right triangles, but the generalization (and proof of generalization) opens up so much. If nothing else, the sharpening of the rational and skeptical faculties used by so few humans even today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daver
    Hmm. I'm not sure i'd have put the Pythagorean theorem in there. The idea of mathematical proofs is a good one, but not all that closely related to science. Pythagoras and Aristotle seemed more on the side of numerical mysticism, a belief system antithetical to science. It would have been nicer to work in Archimedes somehow.
    I disagree. The formula has been used in various ways to calculate missing sides of triangles; from force vectors to electricity.
    Electricity travels in triangles.
    When I went to electrical school, many students used a^2 + b^2 = c^2, and found it faster and easier than SOHCAHTOA.

    Someone mentioned the transistor, but I would refine it to the PN junction of semi-conductors.

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