Lesson Progress:

Technology in Physical Science

Lesson Content

Inquire: Science, Technology, and Society!

Overview

It’s not surprising to say that in today’s world, science and technology deeply permeate all areas of society. Society affects the science and technology, and they have a codependent and co-influential relationship between them. In this lesson, we’ll explore the technological design process which guides the development of a new technology. We’ll use some real-world examples to identify the specific relationships between science and technology, and technology and society.

Big Question

What is your opinion about the relationship between science and technology?

Read: Technology in Scientific Research

Overview

In the present world, if we think of any sort of development, then the presence of science and technology cannot be ignored. Technology has had an impressive influence on communication in the 21st century and on daily life in general. In this lesson, you will explore the technological design process, how technology and science influence each other, and the relationship between technology and society.

Technological Design Process

Technology is the application of knowledge to real-world scenarios. This application includes methods like the scientific method, devices like computers and cars, and processes like the Bessemer process.

The Bessemer process, invented in the 1850s, was the very first industrial process used to mass produce steel from molten iron.

Processes like this are a result of technology. Technology is responsible for many of the major advancements in agriculture, medicine, communication, and transportation. Here in the 21st century, it is almost impossible to imagine a life or a world without technology. Technology has its own set of professionals called engineers who are like scientists in the realm of technology. Coincidentally, many of these engineers have a strong physical science background. There are a multitude of careers in engineering, and you can visit your Toolbox for more information on some of them.

The development of new technologies is called technological design. This process is comparable to the scientific method or scientific investigations as they both use evidence and logic to create solutions to complex problems. The technological design process uses the following steps:

  • Identify the problem
  • Research the problem
  • Generate possible solutions
  • Select the best solution
  • Communicate the final solution
  • Refine and retest the model
  • Test the model
  • Create a model of the solution

For example, if we needed to create a car door that would not close on fingers, we could use this process to create one. We have already identified the problem that car doors shut too frequently on human fingers. Our research would reveal that this is primarily due to people not paying attention when closing doors. Possible solutions would be to take all of the doors off of cars, take all of the fingers off of people, or create a door that would not shut if there were an obstruction like a finger in it. Obviously, the last one would be the best solution for our example. We would communicate that solution with our fellow engineers. From there we would create a prototype, which is a preliminary model of a machine. This prototype would be retested and refined until it was reliable the majority of the time. From there, our design could be implemented in cars around the world.

The adoption of our design would be dependent mostly on design constraints, which are limits on design technologies. Some common constraints include laws of nature, properties of used materials, and the cost of producing that newer technology. There can also be ethical constraints such as the safety of people and the environment. If our door emitted a chemical that was harmful for the environment or the people in the car, then that would be a major concern to be addressed before full production could commence. Additionally, if the material that the new car door was made of used inefficient or even destructive means, then there could also be production constraints that would need to be addressed before full-scale production began. Ultimately, the benefits of new technology must outweigh the risks for adoption. This includes the risks for humans, animals, and the environment.

Science and Technology

The creation of new technology is a common example of an applied science. However, technology has a different purpose than science. The aim of science is to increase our knowledge about the world around us, while the aim of technology is to apply that knowledge in practical ways.

While the purposes of science and technology are different, technology and science work simultaneously. Scientific knowledge is utilized to create new technologies, while new technologies are used to further scientific exploration. Working together, they both advance the world in ways that neither one could do by itself.

Technology and Society

We stated previously that the goal of technology is to apply the knowledge gained from scientific research in practical ways. Practicality is determined by society. Therefore, the complications and nuisances of society are what shape technological advancements. As a result, that technology affects society. It does this by making life easier, healthier, or more efficient. A good example is the smartphone. Most of us use a smartphone every day to make phone calls, take photos, surf social media, check blogs, send and receive emails, listen to music, watch videos, play games, watch videos, and write text messages and so forth. Now all these activities can be done using one single device, which has changed the way we live quite drastically.

Reflect: Science or Technology?

Poll

Do you think society shapes the future of science now that you’ve read about the relationship between them?

Expand: Technology and Science

Discover

We discussed earlier that technology and science are in a mutually beneficial relationship where they both are the driving forces behind each other. Oftentimes, advancements in science will make more technological advancements possible, and newer technologies will make more scientific research possible. Here we will take a look at some instances where that has happened.

Sonar

Sonar is a listening device similar to echolocation in that it uses waves to detect unseen objects. In 1906, the first sonar-like listening device was created by Lewis Nixon. Nixon was a naval architect and used this sonar device to detect upcoming icebergs. At first, these sonar sets could only “listen” to returning signals. By 1918, the United States had built sonar sets that could send out, as well as receive, sonar signals. Today, scientists, oceanographers namely, use sonar to map the seafloor. Mineralogists and geologists also use sonar to look for natural resources like oil and different types of soils or rocks.

Seismometer

A seismometer is a device that is used to record earthquakes across long distances. The first one was created in the second century by Zhang Heng. Seismometers advanced in the 18th century through the contributions of British scientists. In the late 1800s to the early 1900s, John Milne used then-modern technology to revolutionize seismometers. Initially, he used simple pen and paper arrangements, but later he made use of technological advancements to use (frictionless) light beams on photographic paper. Such instruments could detect the faint signals from distant large earthquakes anywhere in the world.

Circumstances like the ones listed above have happened numerous times over the course of history. This is how innovation occurs in the world today. It is important to remember that this relationship is what pushes science, technology, and society forward. This has happened for centuries, and it is very likely that it will continue perpetually.

Check Your Knowledge

Use the quiz below to check your understanding of this lesson’s content. You can take this quiz as many times as you like. Once you are finished taking the quiz, click on the “View questions” button to review the correct answers.

Lesson Resources

Lesson Toolbox

Additional Resources and Readings

Getting Science From Einstein to Your Granny: How Society Shapes Science

A refresher video talking about the relationship between science and society from a unique perspective

Different Careers in Engineering

A list of possible careers in engineering

Careers in Earth and Physical Sciences

A list of possible careers involving physical sciences

The Engineering Design Process: A Taco Party

A video detailing how to use the engineering design process in a fun, interactive way

Lesson Glossary

Terms

AJAX progress indicator
  • applied science
    a form of science that aims to solve real-world problems
  • constraints
    limits on design technologies
  • engineers
    scientists in the realm of technology
  • physical science
    one of the two major branches of natural science that studies nonliving matter, such as astronomy, geology, chemistry, and physics
  • scientific method
    method of research with defined steps that include observation, formulation of a hypothesis, testing, and confirming or falsifying the hypothesis
  • seismometer
    device that is used to record earthquakes across long distances
  • sonar
    listening device similar to echolocation in that it uses waves to detect underwater objects
  • technological design
    the development of new technologies
  • technology
    the application of knowledge to real-world scenarios

License and Citations

Content License

Lesson Content:

Authored and curated by Ja’Corie Maxwell, Jinxiu Yuan for The TEL Library. CC BY NC SA 4.0

Media Sources

 LinkAuthorPublisherLicense
adult communication connectingrawpixelPexelsCC 0
Collecting Multibeam Sonar DataNOAA’s National Ocean ServiceWikimedia CommonsCC BY 2.0
aviation discovery orbitPixabayPexelsaviation discovery orbit
Bessemer process DMKUnknownWikimedia CommonsPublic Domain