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Science in everyday life

 

In its broadest meaning of 'knowledge', science enters the life of even the most primitive human being, who knows the safe from the poisonous berry, who has stored up some rudimentary ideas about building a hut, sharpening a spear, and fishing in the river. this knowledge, or accumulation of experience, distinguishes man from the animal which has to rely on instinct.

Yet, for most people 'science' means a number of abstract subject such as physics, chemistry, biology and mechanics, to quote a few, which have to be learnt as part of 'education', yet which seem to have little bearing on everyday living. How wrong this is. Our way o life is completely dependent on science and its fruits surround us on all sides.

The Renaissance first taught man to realize the value of scientific progress, but it was not until the 18th century that the Industrial Revolution in the West really showed the impact science could have on living through developments in land-tillage, commercial production, transportation, and the beginning of the supply of mass-produced consumer goods. Until about 1920, progress was steady but in the last 45 years, the process of applying of science to the needs of living has accelerated enormously. This has been proportionate to the rate of scientific discovery itself.

Today, there is available an enormous range of consumer goods from the simple frying-pan to the jet plane, from the alarm-clock to the computer. All these things serve to make life easier and more pleasant, yet in themselves do not constitute civilization -- merely its comfortable adjuncts. Progress in real living is achieved less through 'things' than through education, the arts and the love of beauty. Science has nothing to say to us in these categories, merely providing aids and short-cuts. Without them, life would be no more than the struggle for survival; there would be no time or incentive to pursue higher things.

Science gives us safe food, free from harmful bacteria, in clean containers or hygienic tins. It also teaches us to eat properly, indicating a diet balanced in protein and carbohydrate and containing vitamins. The results is freedom from disease and prolonged life. In pre-scientific days, food was monotonous and sometimes dangerous; today it is safe and varied. It is varied because through improved sea, land and air transport food can now be freely imported and exported. Science has also improved clothing and made it more appropriate for climatic and working conditions. Man-made fibers and versatile spinning machines, today enable us to dress in clothes both comfortable and smart without being expensive.

Home, school and office all bear witness to the progress and application of science. Nowadays, most homes possess electric lighting and cooking, but many also have washing machines, vacuum cleaners and kitchen appliances, all designed to increase comfort and cleanliness and reduce drudgery. Science produces the fan which cools the air, the machinery which makes the furniture and fabrics, and hundred and one other features for good living. The books and papers are at school, and again everything from the piece of chalk to the closed-circuit television of instruction are the direct or indirect results of scientific progress. Learning is therefore easier. And clerical work is made far more speedy and efficient by the office typewriter, quite apart from the hundreds of different machines which relieve the manual worker of so much slow and monotonous toil in the factories.

In the old days, the idea of travel or taking a holiday was the monopoly of the privileged few. Today, science has given us the steamer, the aircraft and the motor-car. New horizons are opened to us and the increase of wealth brought about by science has given us the means to enjoy the new leisure we have been given. But to enjoy life at all, we must be healthy and it is perhaps in the sphere of medicine that some of the greatest advances have been made. Today, because of the use of antibiotic and isotopes, many diseases are speedily cured and man has become, on the whole, a healthier being, set free from pain and illness.

Science has been completely beneficial to ordinary living when properly applied. When misused, it is equally harmful. Land can be poisoned by chemicals, workers can suffer industrial disease, war can mobilize science to man's own destruction. Science is a good servant, but man must remain master.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
 
 

 

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