Do you ever wonder about the things around you?
Why is the sky blue? How does a plant grow? How does a boat float? Since prehistoric times humans have tried to understand the world around them based on what they have seen and experienced.
Science is a way of explaining things using empirical facts based on experience and observation. These facts are developed through the scientific method and can be predicted, tested, and proven. The term science comes from the Latin word scientia, meaning “knowledge”.
Early Scientific Discoveries
Early humans observed seasonal changes based on the position of the sun, moon and stars, extracted and processed minerals, and developed herbal medicines. In about 4000 BCE, the Mesopotamians were using astronomy and mathematics, and made conclusions about the Earth's position in the universe.
Greeks were the first to develop recorded scientific theories. Pythagoras (c.570 - c.495 BCE) looked at things from a mathematical point of view. Aristotle and Plato (c.425-c.350 BCE) developed logical methods for examining the world around them. Science was also being developed in India, China, the Middle East, and South America. In the 13th century, scientific work was brought together in European universities. During the 15th century, Copernicus created a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth (as previously thought) at the center of the universe. William Harvey developed theories on how blood circulates through the body in the 16th century.
Modern science began during the 17th century, with the invention of the telescope, microscope, clock and barometer. Many scientific laws were proposed during this time including the Law of Gravity by Sir Isaac Newton. The next 200 years brought developments in basic biology and chemistry and various scientific theories. John Dalton developed the atomic theory of matter. Michael Faraday and James Maxwell both put forward theories concerning electricity and magnetism. Charles Darwin proposed the theory of evolution.
Since the turn of the 20th century, we developed new scientific technologies that have enhanced our lives from medical discoveries to agricultural advancements. As we go deeper into the oceans and farther into space, we will see and experience things that we will want to explain. Science is advancing every day and through these advancements we are able to understand these new experiences.
Who knows where science will take us or where we may take science?
What do you think about when you hear the word technology?
Technology can be thought of as tools developed to help solve problems. Technology includes the application of science and the design aspect of engineering to produce solutions to real-world problems. Think of tools you use every day that help you perform tasks efficiently. For most, modern technology comes to mind such as televisions, internet, smartphones, and other electronic devices. These are one aspect of the world of technology. Technological advances have been occurring for millennia from the development of stone tools and the wheel, to the light bulb and the thermometer, up to today’s modern technological devices.
Millions of years ago, human ancestors crafted the first tools from shaped stones and built the first fires. These first technologies helped our ancestors hunt, cook, stay warm, and defend themselves from predators.
During the Neolithic Period (20,000 - 15,000 years ago), humans came together in large groups developing culture, agriculture, and inventions like the wheel.
Advancement continued in these new civilizations. The first irrigation systems were developed in Mesopotamia and the first sailing ships were used on the Nile River. Tools continued to advance past sharpened stones and knives, and iron tools were used.
850 - 1044
Innovation continues to increase around the world. Alchemists in China develop gunpowder, forever changing rocketry and war. Windmills harnessed the power of wind to grind grain in agricultural societies. The first magnetic compass is developed allowing for more accurate navigation on a cloudy night.
13th - 18th Century
Mechanical clocks appear in Europe and precise time measurement improves productivity and coordination in these cities. Johannes Gutenberg completes the printing press allowing people to share and gain knowledge quickly and widely. With the invention of the steam engine in 1765, factories and mills could be powered more easily and the Industrial Revolution gained momentum.
19th Century Technology
The first railway was built in 1804, introducing a faster way to transport goods and people. Transportation on the water was improved with the invention of the steamboat. At the end of the 19th Century, the first modern automobile was finished in Germany. Americans dominated the market of automobiles by mass-producing vehicles in the early 20th Century, causing cities to expand through economic and social growth.
History began to be documented in photos after the invention of photography in the 1820s. Samuel Morse sent the first telegraph message in 1844, revolutionizing communication and opening the door for first telephone call in 1876. Nightlife was forever changed after the invention of the light bulb in the late 1800s and the start of Edison Electric Illuminating Company.
20th Century Technology
Technology in the 20th Century seems to reach unimaginable heights.
The first radio transmission was sent across the Atlantic in 1901, exciting the world. The next step: transmitting images around the world with the invention of television in 1927.
The Wright Brother accomplished the first airplane flight in 1903, and only 54 years later the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into space.
In the early 1940s, scientists researched nuclear power to develop the devastating atomic bomb. After 1945, the attention shifted to harnessing nuclear power for energy and electricity.
The first computer in 1937 was huge: it took up 1,800 square feet and weighed 50 tons. A personal computer small enough for home use was developed in the early 1970s. In 1977, the first generation of students had access to Apple computers at school.
Technology continues to become smaller, more complex and reliant upon the quick calculations of computer programs. Communication has never been faster with the invention of the internet and cell phones. After the invention of the radio and television, entertainment continues to explode with the ability to download music, play video games, and stream movies and shows.
Careers in the technology industry explode with everything from software engineers to social media managers. The future of technology is focused on artificial intelligence and biotechnological breakthroughs such as CRISPR to edit genes.
How do you think technology will continue to expand?
Take a look around. How many things around you are built?
Anything that is built is first engineered, or planned. Engineering is the ability to solve real world problems using math and science skills with a bit of creativity. Engineers are people who want to know how and why things work. Are you interested in how things work?
Engineering is a scientific field that is divided into specialized branches. Some branches of engineering are: civil, electrical, mechanical, and chemical engineering. Many types of engineers can be involved in the creative process. For example, a space rocket requires engineers in the branches of electrical, mechanical, and propulsion systems. Each component must be designed before the rocket can work. Each engineer goes through a process as they solve problems and develop their designs.
Let's check out some interesting engineering of Northern California!
Northern California Engineering: Oroville Dam
The Oroville Dam in Oroville, California is an earth-filled dam on the Feather River. Completed by the state of California in 1968, it is the highest dam in the United States and one of the highest embankment dams in the world. The dam is 770 feet high, 6,920 feet long and has a volume of about 78,000,000 cubic yards. The dam's reservoir is designed to hold 3,500,000 acre-feet. The Oroville Dam provides irrigation water, flood control, and some three billion kilowatt-hours of power.
Why did the Oroville Dam spillway fail?
According to the report released by the forensic investigation team following the spillway's failure, Oroville Dam was designed and built with flaws from the beginning. Problems were noted immediately after the opening of the Dam in 1968. Cracks occurred under the drainage pipes leading to increased water flow that began chipping away at the foundation. The chute was built on poor foundation conditions, recorded in geological reports but not taken into consideration when the spillway was constructed. This led to the cracks in the joints of the concrete chute resulting in the uplifting forces beneath to erupt when the water was released in February 2017.
In order to prevent additional damage, engineers reinforced the emergency spillway with sandbag and large rocks. Debris carried by the flowing water was later removed. This disaster has called for greater monitoring on dams in the United States and proved the need for increased resources to maintain dam safety.
Northern California Engineering: Sundial Bridge
The Sundial Bridge in Redding, California was designed by Santiago Calatrava and completed in 2004. The glass decked, cable-stayed cantilever suspension bridge is 217 feet high and spans 710 feet across the Sacramento River. The bridge also functions as a working sundial. The shadow produced by the bridge moves at a speed of approximately one foot per minute, so the Earth's rotation can be seen with the naked eye! The Sundial Bridge is an environmentally-conscious structure intentionally constructed without river footings to leave the salmon-spawning habitat undisturbed. The decking across the bridge is made of glass and casts less of a shadow on the river below, minimizing impact on the delicate salmon spawning grounds in the river.
Northern California Engineering: Winchester Mystery House
The construction of the Winchester Mystery House began in 1884. Because of San Jose’s close proximity to an abundance of timber, Mrs. Winchester was able to pursue her interest in architectural innovation. The mansion's unique architecture includes elements of Victorian architecture and craftsmanship as well as mystery with stairs leading to ceilings, doors that open to walls, and a window built into the floor. Much of the architectural designs are innovations years ahead of their time. Mrs. Winchester's continual building and remodeling created a 160-room house covering a six acre area. Shortly after Mrs. Winchester's death in 1922 the house was sold and then opened to the public as the Winchester Mystery House.
Have you used math today?
Did you tell time? Did you cook anything? Did you buy something from a store? All those activities require math.
Math is the study of numbers and how they are related to each other. Math focuses on the logic of shape, quantity or amount, and arrangement. The word mathematics comes from the Greek word, máthēma, meaning “learning.”
Mathematics as a formal area of teaching and learning was developed about 5,000 years ago by the Sumerians. They did this at the same time as they developed reading and writing.
Throughout history humans have measured and communicated about time, quantity, and distance. Some of the earliest examples of humans using mathematics are the Ishango Bone, a tool thought to be used for tallying, that is 20,000 years old, and Sumerian Clay Counters used from 9,000 BC to 1500 BC.
The word “tessellation” comes from the Latin word tessella, which means a small cube or a tile. Tessellations are created when a surface is covered with repeating polygons that do not overlap or have gaps.
People have been creating tessellations as part of their art and architecture for thousands of years. Over 6,000 years ago, the ancient Sumerians used tessellations as part of intricate mosaics which decorated the walls of temples and homes. In 1619, Johannes Kepler made one of the first mathematical studies of tessellations. Dutch artist, Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) included several examples of tessellations in his art.
- Tessellations must be made of regular polygons. All polygons with more than six sides will overlap! The only regular polygons that tessellate are triangles, squares and hexagons.
- Each vertex must look the same.
- The sum of the measures of the angles of the polygons surrounding at a vertex is 360 degrees.
Science is all around us: we observe and learn from our natural resources, and seek to explain Earth's forces. We're reliant on technology as it continues to advance and expand. Engineering shapes the infrastructure of our cities and solves problems to aid humanity. Math is in everything we do - from buying candy bars to figuring out how to get to Mars.
Are you inspired to innovate?
Check out the S.T.E.M. activities on our website and experiment at home!