The language of science and technology. The relationships between “know why”, “know how” and natural sciences

Abstract : Science is looked at from a historical perspective. It highlights the two main driving forces that have contributed to the progress of science and the emergence of the modern technology-based industrial society. The branching of science into different disciplines and sub-disciplines was a natural result of the increasing sophistications in the questions asked by and answers provided by science. The language of science emerged and evolved from the dialogue between its different disciplines and sub-disciplines. In this process experiments and reproducibility of data played a critical role. This is illustrated by selected examples from physics, chemistry, biology etc. Secondly, the synergistic relationship between “know how” and “know why” questions drove the innovation process forward. While “know hows” and “know whys” have traditionally been the arena of Industrial R&D and academic research respectively, free movement across the border had resulted in exciting breakthrough discoveries and inventions. This is illustrated by a few major advances in catalysis with special emphasis on their interdisciplinary character and industrial application. The talk concludes with a personal view of what motivates one to choose science as a career and the broader questions of scientific ethics.