In the 17th and 18th centuries, technology, whose origins go back to pre-history, was largely invention-based. Inventors did not have a basic training in scientific fundamentals—they thrived by gifted intuition, by trial and error and by a heritage of handed-down experience. But even in this period, and much more so in the 19th century, the driving force for technology was scientific understanding. Thus, Faraday’s (1820) invention of the electric motor and generator came directly out of the drive to understand the physics of electromagnetism. Faraday did not even take the time to patent his discoveries. In our own times the pace of technological discoveries continues to increase. These are based upon understanding of basic scientific principles, but additionally, the creation of new technologies provides a powerful tool for conducting basic research. Thus, we have an accelerating pace of change: science begets technology and technology enables new science which begets more technology. An example helps: In the 1920’s, experimental data from the atom required an entirely new theory—which became known as the quantum theory. The quantum theory, applied to electrons in metals and semi-conductors, led to the invention of the transistor. The transistor revolutionized electronic engineering and gave rise to microelectronics and high-speed digital computers. Modern physical instruments and particle accelerators are based upon these inventions and provide the tools for further advances in all fields of basic research.
KeywordsScience Education Public Understanding Global Village Accelerate Pace Primary School Science
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