Monday, November 9, 2009

World Science Day - November 10: Peace and Development....!!!

World Science Day - November 10:

Peace and Development
Dulshani Gunawardena

In 2001 UNESCO declared November 10 as the World Science Day for Peace and Development. Today, eight years later, with the world plagued with a multitude of disaster and destruction, we have to look back and wonder how much we have come, and how far we have to go... This context could not be more timely to Sri Lanka today, where the blossoming of peace heralds the potential and opportunity for development.

Defining Science:

The ABCs

In today's world both science and technology is often taken as synonymous, yet they could not be more different!

Research and Development (R&D) Statistics of Sri Lanka (2007)

GDP 0.00-0.25
Researchers per million 0-100
Female researchers 30.1-40.0
Funding received

Govt. 65
Private 20
Foreign 5
Other 10
R&D conducted by
Government 50
Higher Education 30
Business Enterprises 20

The UNESCO Institute of Statistics


Is knowledge gained on a particular subject through observation, study, and experimentation carried out to determine the nature of what is being studied



Is putting the knowledge gained through science to practice

Nuclear Science

The Scientific Method

How did all these laws and theories we hear of today come to existence? It all starts with a simple question and develops through the scientific method into a conclusion.

The steps of the scientific method are to:

Ask a Question

Do Background Research Construct a Hypothesis (Assumption)

Test Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment

Analyze Data and Draw a Conclusion

Communicate Results

It is important for an experiment to be a fair test. A "fair test" occurs when you change only one factor (variable) and keep all other conditions the same.

Mathematics: the blood of science

Mathematics is essential to the sciences. One important function of mathematics in science is the role it plays in the expression of scientific models. Observing and collecting measurements, as well as hypothesizing and predicting, often require extensive use of mathematics. Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus, for example, all are essential to physics. Virtually every branch of mathematics has applications in science.

Statistical methods, which are mathematical techniques for summarizing and analysing data, allow scientists to assess the level of reliability and the range of variation in experimental results. Statistical analysis plays a fundamental role in many areas of science.

Whether mathematics itself is properly classified as science has been a matter of some debate. Some thinkers see mathematicians as scientists, regarding physical experiments as inessential or mathematical proofs as equivalent to experiments. Others do not see mathematics as a science, since it does not require an experimental test of its theories and hypotheses.

Science in the Ancient Indian Subcontinent
Any science textbook today would teach us that Galileo first declared the earth as round, that gravity was discovered by Newton: but these facts held no novelty to the Indian subcontinent as far as four millenniums ago!

Computer labs in schools, play an important role in advancing science education

As far as the second millennium BC, the Rig Veda stated that the Earth was a globe and the Yajur Veda that it circled the sun.

In the eight century BC, the mathematician Baudhayana in his Baudhayana Sulba Sutra, contained the general statement of the Pythagorean Theorem as well as many Pythagorean triples (3,4,5/ 5,12,13/ 8,15,17).

Indian fifth century astronomer and mathematician Aryabhata, in his Aryabhatiya and Aryabhata Siddhanta, worked out an accurate heliocentric model of gravitation, including the circumference of the earth, and the longitudes of planets around the Sun. He also introduced a number of trigonometric functions, (including sine, cosine and inverse sine), trigonometric tables, and techniques.

In the 7th century, Brahmagupta recognized gravity as a force of attraction He also lucidly explained the use of zero as both a placeholder and a decimal digit, along with the Hindu-Arabic numeral system now used universally throughout the world.

Furthermore, the systems of Ayurveda, mining and irrigation of the ancient days continue to amaze experts in the field today.

Science: Where do WE stand today?

Sri Lankan forestry students researching bio diversity. Research needs much developement in Sri Lanka.

The quality of science education and technological development vary widely worldwide. While developed countries have more resources for an extensive science education and facilities for technological development, developing countries suffer from a great lack of resources, further isolating them from the development process.

The UNESCO Institute of Statistics measure the quality of Science worldwide through R&D (Research and development). It basically measures the amount of GDP devoted to science and the number of researchers.

According to 2007 statistics, Sri Lanka shows a great lack of researchers, being in the range of 0-100 researchers per million. In developed countries this figure counted as more than 2000 per million. However, Sri Lanka has a significant number of female researchers, in par with developed countries.

The percentage of gross domestic expenditure allocated in Sri Lanka is also extremely low, ranging 0.00 to 0.25 percent. This figure ranges between 2.01 percent and above in the USA, Canada, Australia. Considering the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan and India both show figures of 0.51 to 1.0 percent.

Sri Lanka's R&D is basically funded through the Govt., though there is a significant proportion of private funding. The research conducted by the private sector and for business needs is considerably low, with Govt. and higher education institutions taking the limelight.

Science for Peace and Development
Science is a double edged sword: either to kill or to save. Scientific development today cannot be interpreted as 'development' for humankind in general, as today's wars finely justify. While the manufacture of nuclear and bio weapons have become a topic of much debate today, it is essential to build up a sustainable policy in that regard. Starting at grassroots levels, its essential for the public in general to be more informed on the aspects and destruction of advanced war technology.

Development can be held synonymous with Science and Technology.

Developed countries have better access to the monetary funds needed to conduct and implement research. Developing countries should focus more on cost efficient research. Moreover research should be directed to find cost efficient supplementary technologies.


Science through the ages:


5 million Tools from pebbles in Africa
1 million Discovery of fire
200 000 first weapons-stone hand axes
13 000 weaving and leather making, oil lamps
10 000 sickles, mud huts
8 000 plough and flail, pictorial writings
6 000 weaving looms, scales
3 000 discovery of the wheel, metal articles, calendar
2 600 glassware, soap in Babylonia
2 250 Maps in Mesopotamia
2 000 Abacus in China
1 200 Iron and steel tools, first ocean going ships
250 Archimedes screw, gun in Greece
47 First Encyclopaedia by Marcus Terentius Varro


105 Chinese paper making
150 Water clocks
400 Numeral zero in India
600 Windmills in Syria
725 Mechanical clocks in China
800 Wood block printing
900 Optical lenses
1202 Modern method of counting
1250 Glass spectacles in Spain
1300 Spinning wheel, cross staff for navigation
1350 Printing with metal type in Korea
1550 Quadrant for navigation
1590 Microscope-Janssen, Netherlands
1600 Thermometer, sheet glass for windows and mirrors
1608 Telescope in Netherlands
1712 Practical steam engine in Britain
1745 Chemical battery (Leyden jar)
1769 Steam powered car in France
1792 Volta's first electricity battery, gas lighting
1795 Pencil-Conte, France
1796 Smallpox vaccination-Jenner, UK
1810 Canning process for food-Appert, France
1816 First photographic image on metal plates in France
1820 Mechanical calculating machine-Babbage, Britain
1829 Typewriter-Burt, USA
1831 Electric generator and transformer-Faraday, Britain
1837 Electric telegraph and code-Morse, USA
1838 Photography on paper-Talbot, Britain
1843 Underground railway-Pearson, UK
1844 Anaesthetics for surgery-Wells, USA
The basic tool of evolution

1845 Safety match-von Schrotter, Germany
1849 Safety pin, glider(first winged aircraft to carry a person)
1851 Elevator-Otis, USA
1855 Refrigerator-Harrison, UK
1859 Asprin-Kiolbe, Germany
1860 Pasteurisation of milk
1866 Dynamite, fire extinguisher
1868 plastics, traffic lights, stapler
1870 Antiseptics for surgery
1872 Electric typewriter, jeans-Levi Strauss, USA
1876 telephone, microphone
1877 gramophone, Edison, USA
1879 Electric bulb-Edison, USA
1882 Skyscraper, electric iron
1884 Fountain pen, large steam turbine, heat resistant glass
1887 electric heater, Contact lenses-Fick, Germany
1888 Alternative current electric motor
1889 photographic film, automatic telephone exchange, electric oven
1892 vacuum flask, diesel engine cash register-Burroughs, USA
1895 radio broadcasting, cinema, electric drill, safety razor
1897 cathode ray tube
1900 loudspeaker, paper clip
1901 vacuum cleaner
1905 X-ray machine
1907 fax machine, electric washing machine
1916 detergents
1920 long distance air travels
1925 Motorways, TV camera-Baird, UK
1928 Tape recording
1931 Radio telescope, electric guitar
1932 electron microscope
1938 photocopier, ball point pen
1945 Atomic bomb, microwave oven
1946 electronic computer
1950 Human kidney transplant, credit card
1956 video recorder
1967 First human heart transplant
1970 Factory robots, genetic engineering
1975 Desktop computer, USA
1979 ultrasound scanning
1988 genetic fingerprints
1990 first gene transplant on a human
1997 cloning of Dolly

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