As man’s understanding of the laws of nature increased, he thought of ways of using this understanding to create new things for his use. That is to say, as science progressed, man found ways of applying science for his benefit. Applied science is called technology. Science and technology go hand in hand. Just as progress in science results in nre technology, new technology also leads to researches in new fields leading to advancement in scientific knowledge. To understand the relationship between science and technology, let us first look at a few examples.
Advances in the Use of Materials
The use of materials from prehistoric times has been an important indicator of the growth of science and technology. Such is its importance that the early years of civilization have been named after the materials used during those times. During the Stone Age, man’s knowledge of material and shapes allowed him to create crude tools of stone. As man understands of fire and its uses grow, he realized that by using heat he could extract from shallow mines and pits a new material-copper. During the Copper Age, he learnt that this material could be shaped more easily than stone, and consequently he found new uses for it, for example, in making utensils for cooking and storing food.
As science progressed, bronze, an alloy was discovered. During the Bronze Age, stronger utensils and tools could be fabricated. The discovery of iron and its utilization in making weapons, etc., in the Iron Age further enhanced man’s knowledge of metals. From here to the discovery of steel marks large strides in science. Each new material discovered by science led to new applications which meant a growth in technology.
Apart from metals, other materials used for making houses, clothes, containers, etc., also progressed. Take the case of glass. One man mastered the chemistry involved in making glass; he found numerous applications for it leading to the growth of glass-making technology. This technology made glass popular among the masses by producing the various useful glass-made things. From here arose the need for a material which would be transparent like glass, but would not break as easily. Scientists came out with new materials like plastic. This material was quickly made popular when various uses of plastic were made possible by new technologies for molding plastics. Plastic could now be used to make containers, jugs, syringers, toys, etc.
From the above discussion it becomes clear that the advances made in the use of materials involved scientific knowledge. However, it is the application of this science to create objects for our use, i.e., technology, which makes the new materials popular.
Advances in the Field of Energy
We need energy to do work. Human beings and animals get energy from the food they eat. In the beginning, man used his muscular energy to do work. When he domesticated animals, he used them to do such tasks as ploughing and hauling loads. Slowly man found other sources of energy like fire, wind and water. He used flowing water to transport logs. Wind would drive his sailboats and windmills. To catch the wind and move in a desired direction, man designed a set of sails and rudder. Science enabled man to understand the power and nature of winds, and technology enabled him to harness this power, i.e., convert wind to a resource.
Man had been using fire (heat energy) to cook, to extract metals, etc. Then coal was discovered. Man learnt that he could use this fuel to produce much more heat. Scientists also observed that water, when boiled, produces steam which can be used to do work. Using this scientific principle, steam-engines were built. Steam-engines opened up the gates to a technological revolution which led to the fabrication of a large number of steam-driven machines including railway engines.
With the discovery of petroleum and natural gas, we found another source of energy. Advances in science by now allowed separation of a number of fuels like petrol, diesel, and kerosene from crude petroleum. These fuels were more efficient and convenient than coal. The technology of engines advanced further and petrol engines and diesel engines were made.
Scientists then found a very powerful source of energy-electricity. As science progressed, scientists understood that this source of energy could be used to produce light, heat, magnetism, etc. The understanding of electricity and magnetism led to technological advances that produced electric bulb, electric heater, electric motor and generator, telephone and computer to name just a few.
Scientists working on the nature of atoms realized that they could harness atomic power. Soon technology made it possible to have nuclear power stations to generate electricity and even small nuclear plants which could drive submarines, etc.
So far we have seen how science and technology complement each other to meet man’s requirements for materials and energy. Let us now study other aspects of the relationship between science and technology.
A number of Scientific Principles behind a Technology
More often than not, birth of a new technology is possible only after understanding various scientific concepts. Sir Humphry Davy invented the miner’s safety lamp. Before this lamp was discovered, the lamps used by miners would often set off explosions inside mines. Davy’s safety lamp was made possible only because of proper understanding of the principles of heat conduction, smoke emission, light transmission, the nature of the gases in mines, etc. Similarly an electric generator involves the knowledge of electricity, magnetism, heat conduction, laws of rotation, friction, etc. The understanding of the principles of how the flow of air around the wing of an aircraft produces upward lift, knowledge of the chemistry of metals and alloys for producing a strong yet light structure, and the principles of het propulsion are some of the scientific concepts required to make a jet airplane.
Technology Leads to Expansion of Scientific Knowledge
We have seen how scientific discovers caused technology advancements, Quite often technology also leads to new scientific knowledge and discoveries. The steam-engine invented by James Watt was a technological marvel. Scientists started thinking about the following questions. Why was this engine more efficient than the older ones? What is the relation between heat and power? What different fuels can be used to power engines and what would be the efficiently of these engines? What power can be extracted from a given amount of fuel? How could these engines be made more fuel-efficient and how could the losses is reduced in the transmission of power? They developed different laws and theories which would answer these questions. All this led to the formation of a new branch of science called thermodynamics.
Technology often allows scientists to broaden their knowledge of a branch of science. The Dutch invented the discovered the satellites of Jupiter and the features of the moon. This single instrument was largely responsible for advances in astronomy, a branch of science. Similarly, the electron microscope became a powerful tool for biologists to study cells in greater detail.
Another example of technology helping science is the invention of liquid fuel rockets. Robert Goddard of USA, Wernher Von Braun of Germany and others worked in developing these rockets. During the Second World War, the Germans developed the V-2 rockets which could deliver bombs hundreds of miles away. From this, scientists and engines progressed to design tickets which could launch spacecraft. This brought about immense scientific gains. In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin of USA landed on the moon.
It is one thing to look at the moon through a telescope and try to figure out the composition of its soil, and quite another to actually look at the soil through a microscope and analyze it. The development of rockets and spacecraft has allowed scientists to send space probes to far-off planets. These probes take pictures of a planet’s surface, analyze its atmosphere and send back the data to scientists themselves can carry out different experiments abroad spacecraft revolving around the earth. This is another case of technology helping in the advancement of scientific knowledge.