Astronomy is a science involving the observation and explanation of events occurring outside Earth and its atmosphere. It studies the origins, evolution, physical and chemical properties of all the objects that can be observed in the sky (and are outside the earth), as well as all the processes involving them. What subfields it includes is a question whose answer has been changing with the ages. During part of the 20th century astronomy was considered to be separated in astrometry, celestial mechanics and astrophysics.
Biology is the science of life. It is concerned with the characteristics and behaviour patterns of organisms, how species and individuals come into existence, and what interactions they have with each other and with their environments.
Overview of biology
Biology encompasses a broad spectrum of academic fields that are often viewed as independent disciplines. Together, they study life over a wide range of scales:
- at the atomic and molecular scale, through molecular biology, biochemistry
- at the cellular scale, through cell biology
- at the multi-cellular scales, through physiology, anatomy, and histology
- at the level of the development or ontogeny of an individual organism, through developmental biology
- at the level of heredity between parent and offspring through genetics
- at the level of group behavioUr through ethology
- at the level of an entire population, through population genetics
- on the multi-species scale of lineages, through systematics
- at the level of interdependent populations and their habitats through ecology and evolutionary biology
- and speculatively through Xenobiology at the level of life beyond the Earth.
Chemistry is the study of the atomic building blocks of nature, how they combine and their combinations which form the solids, liquids, and gases that make up most forms of matter.
The periodic table of the chemical elements is a display of known chemical elements, arranged by electron structure so that many chemical properties vary regularly across the table.
College students typically study chemistry in the following "blocks":
analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, polymer chemistry and biochemistry. Often, discoveries in chemistry are made by physicists, biologists, chemical engineers or pharmacists.
In its most general sense, computer science (CS) is the study of computation and information processing, both in hardware and in software. In practice, computer science includes a variety of topics relating to computers, which range from the abstract analysis of algorithms to more concrete subjects like programming languages, software, and computer hardware. As a scientific discipline, it is a very different activity from computer programming and computer engineering, although the three are often confused.
"Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes." -- Edsger Dijkstra
"Computer science is not as old as physics; it lags by a couple of hundred years. However, this does not mean that there is significantly less on the computer scientist's plate than on the physicist's: younger it may be, but it has had a far more intense upbringing!" -- Richard Feynman
Computer science has roots in electrical engineering, mathematics and linguistics. In the last third of the 20th century computer science has become recognized as a distinct discipline and has developed its own methods and terminology.
Earth science (also known as geoscience or the geosciences), is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth. It is arguably a special case in planetary science, being the only known life-bearing planet. There are both reductionist and holistic approaches to Earth science. The major historic discliplines use physics, mathematics, chemistry, and biology to build a quantitative understanding of the principal areas or spheres of the Earth system:
Geology covers the rocky parts of the Earth (or lithosphere) including the planet's core, mantle and crust. Major subdisciplines are geophysics, geochemistry, paleontology, mineralogy, and sedimentology.
Oceanography and Limnology describe respectively the marine and freshwater domains of the watery parts of the Earth (or hydrosphere). Major subdisciplines are physical, chemical, and biological oceanography.
Atmospheric sciences cover the gaseous parts of the Earth (or atmosphere).
Glaciology covers the icy parts of the Earth (or cryosphere).
Ecology is the branch of science that studies habitats and the interactions between living things and the environment. The term was coined in 1866 by the Darwinist and German biologist Ernst Haeckel from the Greek oikos meaning "house" and logos meaning "science"). The environment includes both the abiotic environment -- non-living things like climate and geology -- and the biotic environment -- living things like plants and animals. Much of ecological research is concerned with the distribution and abundance of organisms and how these are influenced by characteristics and properties of the environment: organisms influence their environment and the environment influences organisms.
The term ecology means different things depending on who is using it. For many scientists, ecology belongs to the basic biological sciences. However, most ecologists argue that ecology is a scientific field of its own. For most non-scientists, ecology is first and foremost the protection of nature and the environment from humans and our activities; some argue that this position confuses ecology with environmentalism. Others view ecology as more than a science -- to them it is a certain vision of the world, which would consist in people living in harmony with the other living beings, and in not seeing the other organisms which surround us as mere objects to be used, but rather as belonging to a larger coherent system.
Health science is a medical discipline of applied science which deals with human or animal health. There are two parts to health science: the study, research, and knowledge of health and the application of that knowledge to improve health, cure infectious diseases, and to understand how humans and animals function. Health science research builds on the pure sciences of biology, chemistry, and physics and also social sciences (for example medical sociology).
There are a wide range of traditional areas of health science. The most common areas are: medicine, nursing, midwifery, and various forms of therapy to supplement the healing process and restore proper activity (e.g. recreational, physical occupational, speech, and respiratory). Health science includes both the study and application of preventing and curing human diseases and disorders. Medical doctors include physicians and surgeons. There are many different branches of medicine; the other health care professions also have specialties or focus on specific populations or settings of care. Other less common medical areas include first aid and triage.
Dental health has grown in importance in recent decades making dentistry a major field of health sciences. Counselling, hospice care, home care, nutrition, medical social work, alternative medicine, pharmacology, and toxicology are all considered part of health science. Veterinary science is the health science dedicated exclusively to the care of animals.
Mathematics is commonly defined as the study of patterns of structure, change, and space; more informally, one might say it is the study of "figures and numbers". In the formalist view, it is the investigation of axiomatically defined abstract structures using logic and mathematical notation; other views are described in Philosophy of mathematics.
The specific structures that are investigated by mathematicians often have their origin in the natural sciences, most commonly in physics, but mathematicians also define and investigate structures for reasons purely internal to mathematics, because the structures may provide, for instance, a unifying generalization for several subfields, or a helpful tool for common calculations. Finally, many mathematicians study the areas they do for purely aesthetic reasons, viewing mathematics as an art form rather than as a practical or applied science.
Mathematics is often abbreviated to math in North America and maths in other English-speaking countries.
Physics is the science of Nature in the broadest sense. Physicists study the behaviour and interactions of matter and radiation. Theories of physics are generally expressed as mathematical relations. Well-established theories are often referred to as physical laws or laws of physics; however, like all scientific theories, they are ultimately provisional.
Physics is very closely related to the other natural sciences, particularly chemistry, the science of molecules and the chemical compounds that they form in bulk. Chemistry draws on many fields of physics, particularly quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and electromagnetism. However, chemical phenomena are sufficiently varied and complex that chemistry is usually regarded as a separate discipline.
Statistics is the science and practice of developing human knowledge through the use of empirical data. It is based soundly on statistical theory which is a branch of applied mathematics. Within statistical theory, randomness and uncertainty are modelled by probability theory. Statistical practice includes the planning, summarizing, and interpreting of uncertain observations. Because the aim of statistics is to produce the "best" information from available data, some authors make statistics a branch of decision theory.
The word "statistics" comes from the modern Latin phrase statisticum collegium (lecture about state affairs), from which came the Italian word statista, which means "statesman" or "politician" (compare to status) and the German Statistik, originally designating the analysis of data about the state. It acquired the meaning of the collection and classification of data generally in the early nineteenth century.
We describe our knowledge (and ignorance) mathematically and attempt to learn more from whatever we can observe. This requires us to
- plan our observations to control their variability (experiment design),
- summarize a collection of observations to feature their commonality by suppressing details (descriptive statistics), and
- reach consensus about what the observations tell us about the world we observe (statistical inference).
[based on Wikipedia
OK, how do you like the course so far? I'm sure reading the descriptions above you have been able to pick up some interesting and new vocabulary as well as to learn useful facts about the sciences. Before we proceed with our academic journey we should take a look at our language learning techniques. You know that you have to internalize a certain amount of English words when you aim to score high on the TOEFL test and get admission to a university study program.
Now, what is the best way to learn new vocabulary? To answer this question we have to analyse the structure of language. In most traditional English classes, as well as in course books and on "ESL" (English as Second Language) websites you will find that the English language is divided into several parts -- with Grammar and Vocabulary being the two most frequently used sections. Do you remember your English lessons at school? You probably will recall that there were two major elements -- Grammar and Vocabulary. Grammar meant a lot of complicated terms and rules -- tenses, participles, modals, conditionals, active and passive voice, the gerund, relative clauses, compound sentences, split infinitives and so on.
As far as vocabulary is concerned -- well, this part basically involved translating words from your mother tongue into English hoping that they would somehow "stick" in your mind. Unfortunately, you weren't able to acquire a substantial active vocabulary of the English language and you often became frustrated thinking that your mind was simply incapable of absorbing and storing all those words and eventually you gave up. Now a couple of years later you are facing the same situation again -- you must learn a lot of new vocabulary in order to achieve a high TOEFL score and that's why it is crucial for you to understand the following: As we have already established it used to be very difficult for you to learn and memorize new English vocabulary let alone understand and use all those complicated grammar rules and their many exceptions. Have you ever wondered why it was so hard for you to learn English? It's a fact that the vast majority of the traditional teaching methods are rather ineffective and lead you to actually think that learning English fast and easily is almost impossible. Yet, learning English can be as much fun as playing your favourite sport. What you need is a slightly different approach to the conventional classroom method. View English as the means to achieve a goal rather than the goal itself. This means you should embrace the English language as a whole instead of dissecting it into grammar and vocabulary. When you speak in your mother tongue you use a set of word combinations, phrases, expressions and entire sentences that you have acquired through constant re-production and repetition. You can apply the same technique when you learn English: Always try to memorize words in a context. The English language consists of so-called "lexical items", that is, when you want to learn English for practical application you should be aware that every single new word you encounter usually occurs in combination with other words forming a lexical unit. There are different categories of those constructions -- some are called "collocations", another category could be called "idiomatic expressions". You don't have to know all the details about this classification because too much of this information would only confuse you and slow down your learning process. Just remember this: Always try to memorize new words in context, that means in combination with other words. If you come across a sentence with an unknown word, don't just look up the meaning of that word in your dictionary. Instead, write down the entire sentence and try to guess what the new word might mean. In most cases your knowledge about the subject of the text you are reading will be sufficient to accomplish that task. Keep in mind that when you enrol in an academic course at an English language university you must acquire reading skills enabling you to understand authentic texts without translating into your mother tongue.
OK, maybe we should practise the lexical approach a little? Here are the definitions of the second categories of sciences. When you read them now you should try to guess the meaning of new words before you look them up in the dictionary.
Agriculture includes both subsistence agriculture, which is producing enough food to meet the needs of the farmer and family, but no more) and also (almost universally in the "developed" nations and increasingly so in other areas) the production of financial income from cultivation of the land or commercial raising of animals (animal husbandry). Agriculture is the practice -- the study of these disciplines is called agricultural science.
Architecture is the art and science of designing buildings. A wider definition would include within its scope the design of the total built environment, from the macro level of town planning, urban design, and landscape to the micro level of furniture and product design. Architecture, equally importantly, also refers to the product of such a design.
If you have any English grammar or vocabulary questions,
please post them on this English Grammar Forum.