Applied Science and Technology

Understanding applied science and technology

Your guide to applied science and technology

To explain the concept of applied science and technology, it's important to know that applied science relates to the practical applications that scientific research can be put to. For example, when x-rays were first discovered as part of the electromagnetic spectrum through scientific research, there were no x-ray machines that could photograph inside the human body immediately in production. The discovery of them implied that such an application might be possible, however. It was the field of applied science which developed a new form of technology to come up with the x-ray machines you can find in every hospital around the world, these days. Another example of applied science leading to new technology is ballistics, a highly mathematical field of mechanics that is devoted to projectiles. Without applying the science of ballistics to things like rocket ships, the technology that got man to the moon, or even into orbit, would never have been possible.

 What examples of applied science in technology are there?

There are many branches of applied science that have lead to technological development. We have already noted two, both from the 'pure' or natural science of physics. Engineers will often work in applied branches of physics. For example, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics are both applied sciences of this type. Other applications that derive from physics include the mechanics of materials, kinematics and electromagnetism. From biology, applied sciences like medical microbiology, clinical virology and biomedicine all exist. In chemistry, there are applied science fields, too, such as the study of polymer synthesis, for example, something that has a big part to play in plastic technology.

Is applied science and technology the same thing?

Although applied science and technology are often mentioned together, they are not the same thing. Some technological developments have come about without the need for formal scientific study. An example of an early technology that was developed to move earth efficiently was the long plough. Its invention pre-dates modern science by centuries.

How is applied science and technology taught?

Most applied sciences, such as biochemistry or material engineering, are taught as degree level courses in their own right at university. Technology, taken as a whole, is too wide a remit for a degree course and only taught as a single subject within schools. Most Western countries offer university courses in applied science which cover many aspects of the latest forms of technology. This is sometimes called vocational science.

What does the future hold for applied science and technology?

Currently, vast resources are going into biomedical sciences, many projects focusing on technological ways to cure certain conditions. Applied science is also seeking better technology to help people with disabilities, and this is likely to continue for some time to come, especially as cybernetics become better understood. Dealing with the effects of climate change may also be something that requires new technology to be developed. Again, this is something applied science can help with.

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One of the so-called natural sciences, biology concerns the study of two main topics. The first is life itself. This is the processes – chemical and otherwise – that all living things go through that distinguish them from non-living materials. The second is the wider study of living organisms, including animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. Biologists tend to focus on the physiologies of such organisms as well as their chemical processes, molecular interactions, their development and their evolutionary processes. The word biology is Greek in origin. Bio essentially means life, while ology refers to a field of knowledge.
Although humankind has been using techniques that may be described as biotechnological for centuries, the term itself only came into common usage in the early part of the twentieth century. In the past, biotechnology might have involved things like artificial selection processes for improving the ability of certain crops to survive, for example. Then, there is hybridisation, a way in which people have made entirely new sub-species for themselves. These days, biotechnology includes all sorts of molecular-level processes to engineer the biologies of both plants and animals. It covers bio-manufacturing, bio-engineering, medicine production, gene therapies and food production, among many other aspects.
Although there are many ways of describing cybernetics, it boils down to a system of thinking about various systems, how they work, their constraints and possibilities, as well as their structures. In scientific terms, it usually means thinking about ways in which systems, or machines, interact with people – and sometimes animals, too. One of the key things to take on board about cybernetics is that it gets into many, many fields of human research including – but not limited to – mathematics, sport science, engineering, management systems, psychology, engineering, education and even, in some cases, art. In fact, because it often factors in diverse phenomena, such as communication, biology, mechanics and social systems, there are few areas of academic research where it cannot be applied. Although Plato first used the term, it became more widely used in the twentieth century.
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