Study Guide

Nature of Science - Science and Technology

Science and Technology

Are you reading this on a computer? A tablet? A smartphone? We're going to go out on a limb and say that whatever medium you're using, you're not reading a version of this page that has been scratched onto parchment paper with a quill and ink. You have technology to thank for that.

In the race for more knowledge, science and technology are like two friendly competitors, constantly pushing the other to improve. And you know who's there cheering them on? Engineers.

Aside from building awesome human pyramids, engineers are really great at building other stuff, too. Just think about all of the equipment scientists use. The microscopes, the scales, the particle accelerators. They all came from engineers.

So, where did the engineers get the knowledge (and ideas) to make all this great stuff? We can bet our pocket protectors that a scientist had something to do with it. Here's what usually happens: a scientist has a question (yes, again). They think about how to answer it and realize that they don't have the right tool.

Cue superhero theme music.

An engineer enters in cape and boots, tightly clad in spandex, and says, "I'll save you! Stand aside while I make this gel electrophoresis setup!"

Okay, so maybe that's not exactly how it happens, but it's pretty close. Scientists are always trying to advance our knowledge of science, but sometimes the equipment we have just can't keep up. That's where engineers come in to tweak what we have or whip up something totally new for the job.

So, what's in it for the engineers? Well, they might get a device named after them, which is pretty cool. Just ask Emil Erlenmeyer. That's not all, though. Engineers are also limited by the scientific knowledge we have of the natural world. When scientists make new discoveries, engineers get a whole new tool in their toolbox to play with. Which means they can create new stuff for scientists to use to make new discoveries and the whole process repeats itself.

Of course, this process doesn't just mean cool toys for scientists and engineers to play with. We consumers benefit from it, as well. Just look at our smart phones. There was a time when we had to press the "7" key four times just to type the letter "S". There was also a time when texting didn't exist, but we don't like to talk about it. Now we have phones we can strap to our faces for a virtual reality experience. We're not sure what happened to using phones to call peopleā€¦Engineers make it possible for us to get our hands on all kinds of new technology by figuring out how to mass produce the latest prototype and making it accessible to everyone.

Science and technology are constantly working to make each other better. We can usually find them skipping hand in hand through a field of wildflowers as they talk about how to measure the universe and what happens if they tickle an atom.

Common Mistakes

Science and technology are two words that are very closely related. But do they mean the same thing? Not really. Even though they're often used interchangeably, science and technology have different purposes and spit out different results. For example, science gives us scientific knowledge based on evidence from observations or experiments. Technology gives us a solution to a problem, like how to get our watermelon from point A to point B.

These two fields do lean on each other, using each other's advances to help advance themselves. However, science is all about collecting evidence through experiments and observations and using that evidence to explain something. Technology attempts to create new stuff by designing, building, testing, and then mass-producing their invention. Of course, scientists do use some of these inventions, and some of these inventions are based on discoveries made by scientists. Which makes science and technology kind of like brother and sister. Or aunt and uncle? First cousins, one removed? Hold on, we'll get the family tree...

Brain Snack

The microwave oven gently nuking our mid-afternoon Hot Pocket was a total accident. A physicist named Percy Spencer was enjoying a typical day at the office making magnetrons (something that makes the microwave signals used in radar, not a transformer) when he realized the chocolate bar he had in his pocket had melted. After a few awkward minutes explaining the mess, he realized that microwaves could be used to heat food. Now they're providing warm sustenance to hardworking scientists all over the place.

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