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3 September 2009

Father of all science?

Last week, a friend of mine suggested doing a debate as a ‘performance’ on the welcoming night for us first years in the faculty, and the title suggested by him was “which is the father of all science? Physics, Chemistry or Biology?” I think there is quite a lot to say about it.

Obviously, I’d say the father of all science is obviously Physics as compared to the other two options which are chemistry and biology respectively.

Why physics? How is physics the father of all science?

The way I perceive it, physics deals with the laws that govern the entire universe – from the smallest atomic scale to the huge cosmological scale. Physics gives the theory and the equations that explain how everything works with precise mathematical details that were developed by many brilliant physicist and theorists since centuries ago.

Chemistry on the other hand is the synthesis of physics. It was developed from the ideas of physics, notably the atomic model that describes the bonding of electrons in all of chemical reactions. Ever heard of physical or radio chemistry? All this intricate knowledge of chemistry is derived from the discovery in nature that was explained by physics. The Pauli Exclusion Principle which postulates the spin properties of electrons, the energy levels for understanding thermo-chemistry and the electron shells (s,p,d,f that stands for Sharp, Principle, Diffuse, Fundamental) that predicts the probable location of electrons in an atom are derived from the wave functions in quantum mechanics – all of them are fundamentally related to pure physics.

What about biology?

Biology is in turn, explained by chemistry. The complex life as we know it is quite simply made up of tiny pieces of cells. I’m no biologist, but as far as I know, the cells run their daily lives with all the necessities that are organic chemical compounds. They generate energy via glucose (for example) which is a form of organic compound. The DNA, is a chemical compound. The pheromone, dubbed the potion of love, is also an organic compound. All of these complex interactions inside any living being are basically chemistry at work.

This whole idea is called the “physics first” movement that was proposed by particle physicist, Leon M. Lederman. He discovered the muon neutrino in 1962 and the bottom quark in 1977. Won Nobel prize in physics for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino.

So... Who is the father of all science?

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