Science has made tremendous progress in the twentieth century, and every year it is taking a step further though in recent w years so many discoveries and inventions have taken place in the field of science, yet, considering the limited scope of the essay, only a few, very important ones, can be dealt with here.
Science has achieved great success in the field of medicine and surgery. The introduction of Penicillin is an epoch-making event in the history of medicine. All the older antiseptics were much more toxic to the human organism than to bacteria. The sulphonamides were much more toxic to bacteria than human organism, but they had some poisonous action on the latter. Here in penicillin, the doctors have discovered a substance extremely toxic to some bacteria but almost non-toxic to man. And it not only stops the growth of the bacteria, it kills them, so it is effective even if the natural protective mechanism of the body is deficient. It is effective, too, in pus and in the presence of other substances which inhibit sulphonamide activity. Penicillin has proved itself immensely effective in war casualties and in a great variety of civil illnesses. Perhaps the most striking results have been in venereal diseases; with penicillin treatment, there are something like 70 percent recoveries.
Penicillin has made medicine and surgery easier in many directions. The spectacular success of penicillin has stimulated the most intensive research into other antibiotics, and other drugs as gramicidin or tyrothricin, and streptomycin. Bacteriologists and mycologists are investigating into all sorts of moulds and bacteria to see if they produce antibiotic substance. The chemist concentrates or purifies the active substance, and the experimental pathologist tests the concentrate for activity and toxicity. There are teams of workers. who are thus investigating every bacillus and every mold in the collections which exist in various countries? It seems likely that in the next few years a combination of antibiotics with different antibacterial spectra will furnish a drug from which few and fewer infecting bacteria will escape.
In surgery also wonderful improvements have been made. More than 96 percent of those who were wounded in World War II and reached medical care, could survive on account of surgical operations. Some of the recent most astounding and successful surgical operations have been the operation of cancer of the pancreas, the removal of an entire lung for malignant disease, operation upon the great blood vessels that spring from the heart, setting distorted blood channels right, the cüre of hypertension by removing two insignificant strand of nerve tissue from the back. The operations are not just casual occurrences, but they are inevitable offspring of a brilliant marriage, the union of science and surgery. Some may ask-What has the science to do with surgery? Surgery means trained fingers no doubt, but without science, there would be no way for that skill to operate.
Advances in surgical knowledge and skill are continually pushing back the frontiers which have from time to time seemed definite to bar all further surgical progress. One such frontier remåins, one which to this time has steadily resisted all battering by surgical experiments, all devices of ingenious surgical techniques which have made it possible to operate in places which seemed anatomically impossible to reach before. This increased barrier is the interior of the heart itself, the delicate valves inside it which are so often attacked by various infections. But even in this restricted field, surgeons have come a long way. If they have not been able to operate successfully inside the heart itself, except in an occasional case which does not establish a precedent upon which to work, surgeons have learned a lot about the heart, about how it works, and in some cases have been able to accomplish a great deal by changing, surgically, other conditions of the circulation which affect the heart. When the surgeons began to look to the last remaining frontier, the heart, they found a lot of preliminary work already accomplished. Tackling heart surgically means opening the chest. Positive pressure anesthesia made long operations in the open chest possible.
One drawback to operations on the circulations is clotting, called a thrombosis, whenever a blood vessel is damaged by whatever agent, a bullet or a surgeon’s knife. Thrombosis tends to close up the vessel at this point. Worse still; pieces of it break off and travel in the bloodstream causing often fatal emboli to lungs and brain. That problem was solved by heparin, the clot-preventing substance. Isolated chemically and now prepared for medical use it can be injected into the circulation intermittent or continuous doses. There it decreases the clotting power of the blood to a remarkable degree, preventing the formation of thrombi where blood vessels are connected together by surgical operations, or where a great artery is opened to remove the clot which may suddenly shut off the circulation of an entire leg of a heart patient. It was a wonderful discovery, one destined to revolutionize the lusty science of blood vessel surgery.
Another very important and useful recent scientific advancement is the discovery of synthetic substances, like synthetic rubber, plastics, resins, fibers etc. This is essential because the supplies of raw materials of various types are limited and cannot cope up the ever-growing demand. “Synthetic polymers” is a term used by the chemist for the giant molecules he has learned how to manufacture from very simple ones. Such polymers possess very different properties and relatively inert chemical properties compared to substances from which they are derived.
Today’s synthetic rubber is the equivalent of natural rubber when fabricated into tyres for passenger automobiles. Many improvements in the processing of synthetic rubber for tyres have been made in the past decade, the most interesting of which has been the incorporation of a substantial amount of petroleum in the mix. The resulting tires are claimed to have no inferior qualities and some superior ones, to those that are oil-free. Moreover, they can be made more cheaply, and a substantial amount of raw rubber is conserved. A synthetic rubber suitable for heavy-duty tires on trucks, buses, and other large vehicles, has yet to be found. Present synthetic rubber tires, when used for this purpose, are susceptible to a heat build-up that leads to excessive degradations. The eventual discovery of synthetic rubber for this purpose is merely a matter of time.
Dozens of various kinds of plastics are now sold commercially. These vary from the clear and transparent, especially suitable for ornamental purposes or for airplane windshields, very tough, chemical and heat-resisting plastics for use as gaskets in chemical operations involving corrosive materials. There are resins and plastics for parts of chemical equipment; for coatings of wire to be used in the construction of small motors operating at a high temperature to produce the power of an ordinary large motor; for the waterproofing of fabrics; for finishing of wood, metals, and even stoneware, Plastics are available for all types of bristles, and others are suitable for replacement of metals even where strength is a primary factor. The future will see transparent plastics that will not discolor and with surfaces that will not craze or scratch readily, finishes for wood and metals that will remain durable for long periods of time in the presence of sunlight and salt air; and flexible, waterproof and moisture proof film of any desired strength.
Cotton, silk and wool have been the fibres used almost exclusively for fabrics until a few decades ago. Rayon and acetate silk were then introduced. These are both chemical modifications of cellulose, derived usually from cotton or wood. About twenty years! ago nylon, a strictly synthetic fiber, made by combining very simple molecules into a complex one similar to those nature furnishes us, made its appearance. Chiefly because of its rapid-drying properties, its durability, and its resistance to fungi and insects, it has found many applications for which natural fibers are not suitable. Natural silk, for which nylon is a substitute, has never recovered its pre-war status. The brilliant researches in Japan extending over a period of: forty years, when the silk-worm was nurtured and pampered until he produced an egg-shapped instead of a peanut-shaped cocoon with a filament twice as long as formerly and of double strength, will be of no avail by the time the synthetic chemist has had a decade or more of additional experience. The uses for nylon have become so numerous that the demand cannot be met by production facilities. Newer synthetic fibrés have appeared on the market–for example, Orlon, Acrilan, Dynel which resemble one another somewhat in properties and are all based on the same simple” chemical, acrylonitrile. These fabrics are utilized particularly for seat covers, curtains, and filter cloth in the industry. These are also suitable in the apparel field because of their smart appearance, long wear, and easy laundering. Still another synthetic fiber is Dacron, which resists wrinkling, water, and moths’ as does no other fiber. Suits made of Dacron go through rainstorms without losing their crease and can be cleaned with soap and water without losing the original shape after drying.
After the invention of the atomic bomb, scientists have turned their attention to the largescale utilization of nuclear power for industrial and other useful purposes. Atomic reactors have been set in various countries, for the purpose of producing energy. These are Breeder Reactors for converting the weaker type of uranium into that of higher potency; Homogeneous “Reactors which generate electricity; Naval Reactors which are used for supplying power to the submarines and large ships; and the Aircraft Reactors for propelling airplanes. All these Reactors are still in the experimental stage, and it is hoped that in a decade or so nuclear energy will be widely used for various purposes.
Another important invention of science is that of the machines that think In the Middle Ages, there were few books, and . it was easy for a man to handle nearly all the information that was in books. As the printing press came into use, man’s brain could no longer handle all recorded information, and the effort to do so was given up. But some years ago, a brain to handle information, equipped with a motor and supporting the man and his reasoning, came into existence. This is called the controlled calculator. The thinking machines which already exist perform the various functions viz., calculating (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing); reasoning (comparing, selecting); referring (looking up information . in lists).
We can expect other processes of thinking to come up to a high speed through the further development of thinking machines. Nowadays when we wish to send out announcements of an event, we may copy the addresses of our friends on to the envelopes by hand. In the future, we can see our address book as a pool of magnetic tape. When we wish to send out announcements, we put a stack of blank envelopes into the machine that will read the magnetic tape, and we press a button. Out will come to the envelopes addressed. It’ we wish to select only those friends of ours whose last names we put down on a list, we can write the list on another magnetic tape, place it also in the machine and set a few switches. Then the machine will read the names on the list, find their addresses in the address book tape, and prepare only the envelopes we want. If a friend’s address changes, we can notify the machine. It will find his old address, erase it and enter the new address.
We can foresee the development of machinery that will make it possible to consult the information in a library automatically, Another machine that can be foreseen would be used for translating from one language to another, which may be called an automatic translator. We may have also the automatic týpist and the automatic stenographer, a machine that will listen to sounds and write them down in properly spelled words.
These are some of the recent advancements in the field of science and encouraged by them we can hopefully look forward to still greater achievements.
The latest advancement in the realm of science is the launching of Satellites by the Russian and American scientists. Every effort is being made by these scientists to send a rocket to the moon. These devices of outer space travel may have far-reaching effects Explaining these Dr. Wernher Von Braun, the German-born head of the U. S. A guided missiles projects, who is the brain behind the explorer satellites told reporters at the International Astronautical Congress held at Amsterdam in August 1958. “The moon rocket, the U. S. A. already possesses is almost powerful enough for an interplanetary trip to Venus or Mars. The telėgram satellites? will be equipped with tape recorders to receive signals sent up from superspeed electronic machines, which can handle impulses of a millionth. of a second. A satellite passing over London will record signals from the ground station there containing all the telegrams for Frankfurt, Munich, Istanbul and so on. A few minutes later the satellite appears over Frankfurt, where on a signal horn the ground station, it plays back all the messages for Frankfurt and is ready to receive more telegrams. A rate of only a penny a word will be enough to finance all space travel, including expeditions to the Moon and Mars. A little escape velocity takes you to the moon; a little more to Venice.
The problem is that there are far greater distances involved, no so guidance accuracy requirements even to get close are terrific. You may miss Venice by as much a million miles if you do not have a reasonable guidance system. I am convinced that the plan for a permanently manned satellite space station is feasible despite the recent discovery of a dangerous radiation belt round the earth.