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Science Education and the Future of Humankind

1:12pm, April 21, 2008

In the 17th and 18th centuries, technology, whose origins go back to pre-history, was largely invention-based. Inventors did not have a basic training in scientific fundamentals. They thrived by gifted intuition, by trial and error, and by a heritage of experience handed down. But beginning in this period, and much more so in the 19th century, the driving force for technology was scientific understanding. Faraday’s invention of the electric motor and generator in the 1820s came directly from the drive to understand the physics of electromagnetism. Faraday didn’t even take the time to patent his discoveries.

In our own times, new technologies still flow from understanding basic scientific principles, but additionally, some of those new technologies provide a powerful tool for conducting basic research. Thus we have an accelerating pace of change: Science begets technology and technology enables new science, which begets more technology. An example helps: In the 19

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