Remember the days when you were young and you’d endlessly annoy your parents with the innocent questions?
Why is the sky blue?
Why do we sneeze?
Where to bees go?
Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?
These questions, while they may seem simple, can be quite complex. You never know what you’ll find, what lessons you’ll learn, nor how they can apply to the broader picture in life. Some times the lessons and applications are obvious, sometimes the applied part doesn’t come till years or even decades later. However long you wait for the “how does this apply” answer, the answer will come eventually when everything else is ready.
This is the difference between basic science and applied science. In basic science you get to explore and answer basic questions without having a grander scheme to help or hinder the world. Basic science is also called fundamental science, which is really a more descriptive name for it. The questions are basic, but the answers are the foundation to applied sciences.
For the most part, that is what our scientific history was: fundamental science that asked “why” more often than they got answers. There is a great book detailing the transition and bridging between fundamental science and applied science. It’s called The Philosophical Breakfast Club by Laura Snyder.
As you can tell, the history of fundamental science goes deep and has roots in philosophy, and it wasn’t until later that we begin to ask the “so what” question attached to the end.
Over time, we’ll be doing more articles relating to this as we discuss the history of science. If you’d have any topics you’d like us to discuss in particular, leave a message in the comments and we’ll put it on the list.