Science & Technology

Major Breakthroughs in Science that Revolutionized the World

Throughout history, science has seen many significant discoveries that transformed our understanding of the universe and some that revolutionized our lives. These discoveries have resulted from relentless pursuit and scientific efforts. Let’s look at some of the most groundbreaking scientific breakthroughs in this post.

Newtonian Physics (17th century)

a blackboard with a bunch of diagrams on it
Photo by Dan Cristian Pădureț

In 1687, Isaac Newton published his book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), which changed our understanding of the physical laws governing the universe. In his book, he postulated the 3 laws of motion, popularly known as “Newton’s Laws of Motion” and the theory of universal gravitation.

The Newton’s 3 laws of motion are as follows:

1. Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion unless and until acted upon by an external force. (Law of Inertia)

2. The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net force exerted and inversely proportional to the object’s mass. (Force = mass x acceleration)

3. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction on two different bodies.

Britannica

This profound discovery of Newtonian Physics revolutionized scientific disciplines, from engineering to astrophysics, permanently transforming our perception of the physical world.

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Theory of Relativity (20th century)

Einstein’s theory of relativity redefined our knowledge of space, time, gravity, and the very fabric of the universe. Relativity theory was able to explain and describe several then unexplained phenomena such as the bending of light and the existence of black holes.

Special Relativity: Einstein’s special theory of relativity, proposed in 1905 asserted that the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating (stationary / constant velocity) observers in the universe and that the speed of light is constant in vacuum.

This universality explained by Special Relativity ensures that there is no preferred or special location in the universe with unique physical laws and laws that govern the behavior of physical phenomena are the same for all stationary observers.

It further inferred that Time is not absolute; it is relative and depends on the observer’s motion. As an object’s velocity approaches the speed of light, time for that object appears to pass more slowly from the perspective of a stationary observer. This phenomenon is known as time dilation. (Time dilation is the reason we have technologies like GPS)

Also, one of the most iconic outcomes of special relativity is the famous equation E = mc2, which states that energy (E) is equivalent to mass (m) times the speed of light (c) squared. This infers that mass and energy are interchangeable and can be converted into each other. This equation has several applications and one of them is Nuclear energy.

General Relativity: Einstein’s general theory of relativity, presented in 1915, explains the gravitational force and the curvature of spacetime. According to general relativity, massive objects, such as planets and stars, don’t simply exert gravitational forces; they also warp the fabric of spacetime around them. This warping effect influences the motion of other objects, causing what we perceive as gravity.

(Spacetime is a mathematical model that fuses the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional continuum.)

Wikipedia

Einstein’s theories of relativity transformed our cosmic worldview. The profound implications of relativity continue to shape the trajectory of modern physics and inspire ongoing exploration of spacetime curvature, which we know as gravity.

For a better understanding of the theory of special relativity, you should watch these videos on the famous – “Einstein’s Train Lightning Thought Experiment and Relativity of Simultaneity”

To exemplify the context, instead of light, consider two balls being thrown with the same velocity (vball) from the front end and rear end of the train towards the center of the train, and compare it with Einstein’s Lightning paradox.

Using classical mechanics, we can infer that the observer on the platform will see the balls (back and front) moving towards the center with the following relative velocities:

vball,back = vball + vtrain
vball,front = vball - vtrain

Solving for the time taken by the two balls to reach the center of the train using these relative velocities, you’ll find:

Both balls will appear to reach the center at the same time (such that, time (t) = d/vball, where d is the distance between the center and the end of the train) for the observer on the platform due to the relative velocities involved. The ball thrown from the front will have a slower relative velocity, compensating for its opposite direction of motion.

Also, since the train is in a uniform motion, balls will reach the center at the same time for the observer on the train as well.

However, in the case of light, since the speed of light ie c (3,00,000 km/s) remains constant for both the observers (stationary and moving), irrespective of the train’s speed (or the speed of any source of light), we experience relativity of simultaneity.

Author

Information Age and the Rise of Computers (Late 20th century)

black and white Info text
Photo by Waldemar

The invention of the transistor and the subsequent rise of computers brought the age of information. This was the advancement of technology as an integral part of our lives, transforming the way we interact and access information; from communication to commerce, and entertainment to education.

The transistor, developed in 1947 at Bell Labs by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley, represented a monumental leap forward in electronics. This tiny yet powerful device replaced bulky and unreliable vacuum tubes, providing a more efficient means of amplifying and switching electrical signals. The advent of the transistor paved the way for the development of computers.

Early computers were large, room-filling machines with limited processing power. However, as computing technology evolved, computers became smaller, and faster making them more accessible and affordable to the commoners.

History of World Wide Web

Further, the arrival of the modern internet, accelerated the exchange of information and enabled real-time global communication. This facilitated worldwide collaborations, trade, and cultural exchanges.

The World Wide Web (WWW) provided a user-friendly interface for accessing and sharing information on the internet. The World Wide Web, also referred to as the Web, represented a paradigm shift in how information was organized, accessed, and shared on the internet.

The rise of websites, online forums, and later social media platforms transformed the internet into a vibrant, user-driven ecosystem. It not only transformed the internet but also played a pivotal role in shaping the social, cultural, and economic landscapes of the modern world.

As we reflect on these achievements, it is evident that each discovery not only expanded our understanding but also laid the groundwork for future innovations, defying the limits of what once seemed impossible. Therefore, it’s important to pursue our scientific curiosity and prepare ourselves for the next wave of modern advancements.