Mathieu Isidro

public information officer, European Southern Observatory

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Is Astronomy the mother of all natural sciences?

Astronomy, the study of the Universe, rather than being one field of science, is increasingly becoming an umbrella term involving most if not all fields of natural sciences. The obvious ones, such as Maths, Physics, Chemistry, and the less obvious, such as Geology, Biology, and even "Meteorology".
Do you then agree that astronomy has evolved to become more than just one field of science, and possibly includes all fields?

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    May 6 2012: I don't believe it is. Before looking at the stars, cavemen already had the need of counting fruit pieces, for instance. I'd say Maths is the mother of all sciences. The equivalent to letters in a book, being Astronomy and Physics an amazing, magic book about an adenturous voyage that is Science.
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      May 5 2012: Don, I'm fascinated by ancient astronomy, and how Babylonians, Persians, and others contributed to our knowledge of astronomy. I feel like there's a general trend to look down on this heritage, feeling we are so sophisticated and so clever now with our technology, but their work was groundbreaking! For example we often forget a lot of stars have arabic names...the history of astronomy is fantastic!
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    Josh S

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    May 4 2012: Astronomy is most certainly not the mother of all sciences.
    All sciences are connected in some way are require bits and pieces of each science..
    As Adam said, physics is applied mathematics. Chemistry is applied physics. Going further, biology is applied chemistry.
    Certain sciences utilize concepts from multiple sciences; geology uses physics and chemistry and biology.
    I agree in that astronomy uses most, if not all sciences, however it is not used in other sciences.

    In my opinion, to be the 'mother of all sciences' it needs to be the basis of atleast part of the foundation of all other sciences. This science would have to be mathematics, because it is in essence the basis of all science in some way or another.
    We know that astronomy isnt the mother of all sciences because you do not need to study it whatsoever to understand biology, chemistry, physics, or mathematics. I will agree though that it is like a CULMINATION of all the sciences, but not the originator of them.
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      May 5 2012: Josh, thanks a lot for your clear answer. I totally agree with it. "Mother" was probably not the best term and indeed that would be maths as it is the basis of all others. Astronomy is definitely not the origin of other sciences. But it seems there is an evolution towards a trend where astronomy involves most other fields, so "culmination" might be a better choice like you said. To me it's really interesting to see all these fields merge in astronomy.
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  • May 4 2012: Sorry, but astronomy is definitely not the "mother of all natural sciences." Often times, whats used inside the academic world is the "purity scale" of sciences. Roughly speaking, from "less pure" to "more pure" the ordering is:
    History, Sociology, Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics (Although there is some debate)
    Now, the "purer" sciences aren't necessarily better, they just indicate a more rudimentary foundation. Physics is ultimately applied mathematics. Chemistry is applied physics. Etc. Without a doubt, the study of mathematics is the "mother" of all else
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      May 4 2012: History is one of the sciences? How does one apply the Scientific Method to history? (Just curious Mr. Druit, do you have a degree in History?).
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      May 4 2012: Hi Adam, thanks for your input! I've heard that scale used before, especially by Mathematicians and Physicists ;-). However, astronomy is not in your scale. Is that because you limit it to just physics? My point was there is more into astronomy than just one of those fields of science, it's a sort of mix of those.
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    May 3 2012: Oh no sir, the mother of all natural sciences is the one in which the speaker holds an advanced degree. I have heard the same expressions of aspiration to supremacy from Physicists. Historically there is a matriarch who rules over all science, but she is not the Mother of the sciences. She is Queen of the sciences. She is Theology.
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      May 4 2012: Dear Edward. Thank you for your reply. I actually had not thought about theology, and this is a valid point, but isn't theology more focused on studying and comparing religions from a scientific point of view? In that sense it's almost more similar to sociology and anthropology. But when it comes to explaining the Universe (in it's physical sense), my argument is that maths alone can't do it, physics neither, nor can chemistry, etc. hence one needs a combination of all these, and that is astronomy.
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        May 4 2012: Are you prepared to defend the idea that being an astronomer requires the same physics training as a physicist, the same math training as a mathematician, and the same chemistry training as a chemist? Hmmmm.
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          May 4 2012: Definitely not. My point is not that all astronomers know all fields of sciences like specialists do, but that within astronomy, most other fields of science are included and are in fact needed for a complete understanding of the cosmos. You have astronomers who specialize in chemistry, some who master biology, some who specialize in physics, and others, like cosmologists, who specialize in physics and maths. But all share, I think, at least a working understanding of physics and maths.
          Using a metaphor, individual fields of science are like pieces of a puzzle which, once completed, explains the Universe, and that is what astronomy is.
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        May 5 2012: Sorry Mathieu, I see astronomy as just another piece of your metaphorical puzzle. By the way, did I miss a meeting? When was the explanation of the Universe published? I know there are a few theories about Bangs, Crunches and Multiverses, etc.
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          May 5 2012: Indeed Edward it's a sum of theories that try to explain the Universe - and there is no single verified explanation although there are leading theories. It's a work in progress...Personally I have a hard time believing in strings and other universes but that is another topic altogether!
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    May 2 2012: It might have links with other natural sciences, but I don't think it's encompassing them. As far as I know astronomy is about celestial bodies and things happening outside our atmosphere.
    The umbrella term is natural sciences, and they use eachother to explain itself.