What are the Natural Sciences?

Everything on Earth that occurs naturally is a mystery to humanity. To build an understanding of these phenomena, some professionals study the natural sciences. These subjects exist to help humans investigate the things that society can observe yet not explain. The issue features many branches of study and uses the scientific method to find proof in credible hypotheses.

What are the Natural Sciences?

The natural sciences are branches of science that explore the complexity of the natural world. Some of the most significant discoveries and fascinating research that you read about in the news from scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson or the late Stephen Hawking are in the natural sciences. The list of natural sciences falls under a single simple definition of meaning despite the several branches under this general form of study.

The natural sciences aim to understand, describe, and predict naturally occurring phenomena that people consider to be part of the natural world, i.e., the life sciences and the physical sciences. Areas within these two branches include biology, chemistry, Earth sciences, physics, and space sciences. The methods used to study these areas focus on gathering empirical evidence from experiments and observation. 

Studying these science topics helps us find meaning in the world around us. This understanding then allows us to adapt and improve our way of life. The natural sciences materials and articles that I suggest to you here will help you understand the definitions, meaning, goals, and trends in the field. I hope you can use them to satisfy your curiosity or to move up in a natural science career.

The Meaning of Natural Science

At its core, the meaning of the natural sciences is focused entirely on naturally occurring events and phenomena. If something happens in nature, then it must be investigated and understood for humans to learn why it occurs. By doing so, scientists and researchers seek out to check off a list of empirical findings to determine whether or not this occurrence is part of the natural sciences. Even in its most simple definition, natural science must undergo a study using scientific principles and criteria. The most central tenet is an element of doubt until arriving at proof.

Unlike the social sciences, the meaning of natural science is not to understand humans. Instead, humans attempt to use the branches of natural science to develop a simple definition of the things around us. You and I see things every day that I’m sure we cannot explain. Whether it’s a star in the sky or weather here on Earth, the meaning of these natural science phenomena is not easily understood. For this reason, researchers undergo endless tests and research projects to develop answers.

One similarity exists between the natural and social sciences in their simple definition. The process of studying anything here on Earth, whether it be nature or humans, is to learn. Learning is the most significant journey living things experience. As this experience pertains to natural science, the subject of study and its list of branches helps us to learn about what is around us.

Modern Natural Sciences

You probably saw the first image of a black hole floating all over the internet. Or maybe you like to keep up with the constant discoveries about dinosaurs and the fossil record. You might also be keeping up with the news on climate change science—I know I am!

Thus, the natural sciences are becoming a list of significant parts of modern life. We see this occurring in many different ways. Technology, medicine, and other modern marvels of the world play a vital role in our everyday lives. Many people need natural sciences for their jobs. Many go to school to get degrees in natural sciences. Scientists can even be celebrities and role models on social media. Figures like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, and Bill Nye are often household names, even for those who aren’t big into science. And natural science books are read both for education and out of pure curiosity by the public. That’s the whole reason you and I are both here—to get more involved!

Science can be for everybody

Of course, this is excellent news, showing that taking a close look at the world around us is cool. And more importantly than being in style, it’s also possible for more people. By that, I mean, you don’t need to attend advanced science classes in biology to learn about definitions in evolution. And I don’t need to work in a science lab to know about the meaning of climate change. Natural sciences books and other materials such as the ones I show you in this article make learning about these topics a possibility for everyone.

Natural Sciences The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is located in downtown Raleigh North Carolina. It is the largest institution of its kind in the southeast

Science vs. Natural Science

Science itself is more of a method than a body of knowledge or a list of definitions. It consists of data collection based on both observation and experimentation. This method lets scientists collect empirical evidence to identify consistent patterns and verify theories as truths.

This process is called the scientific method. I am going to emphasize its crucial role in science as a whole. It’s one of the first things students learn as young as elementary school. Likewise, it’s one of the foundations of the field. I cover natural sciences topics listed here that reinforce the ideas of the scientific method. I will also guide you through actually using it.

But within science as a whole, there exist various areas of focus. The natural sciences are one of these areas. Others include the formals sciences and social sciences. But generally speaking, the natural sciences comprise one area in which people use science to list and study in the natural physical world.

What is the Difference Between Natural and Formal Science?

One of the other branches of science that I mention above is formal science. I know that many people are not familiar with the specific definitions in the field. For this reason, this gives an excellent example of the differences between various kinds of science.

Whereas natural sciences observe natural phenomena and gather data, formal science helps to list and communicate that data. They provide languages like math, logic, and even computer programs that deal with the data. Once someone has collected a set of data, an observer will be able to understand and analyze it.

Which Subjects Do the Natural Sciences Include?

Overall, the natural sciences fall into one of two central branches: the life sciences and the physical sciences. The life sciences revolve around biological studies, and the physical sciences contain astronomy, chemistry, Earth science, and physics.

Thus, I cover five main categories of material here, suggesting articles and other materials for each. The five groups include biology, chemistry, Earth sciences, physics, and space sciences. Some of the science articles I suggest have a focus on technical details for students and professionals. These usually start with basics and include ways to practice knowledge in the form of example problems. Other articles provide reading material for anyone, aiming to educate on specific science topics without getting too technical. Take a look to see what piques your interest. I recommend books and articles for extensive material on particular subjects, and online courses for active learning that helps you participate as you learn.

What Does a Degree in the Natural Sciences Entail?

Degrees in natural science often share some key characteristics. They are typically interdisciplinary, at least to some degree. So this means they will cover multiple sciences at the same time due to their overlapping definitions and meanings. For example, biology has a lot to do with the chemistry of molecules within living things. And how objects behave in space has a lot to do with the physics of matter. So be prepared to take a variety of classes and read many articles in multiple natural sciences topics. You’ll read about a number of topics even if you only majored in one.

I also think it’s important to consider that all of these classes will require large amounts of math and science skills. These include being very comfortable with mathematical equations, solid logic, the scientific method, and technical reading. And many of these skills will be put to the test in hands-on scenarios. Lab work and field projects are common and very important in the field, so being comfortable working in various environments is crucial. And towards the end of a degree, you will likely conduct a capstone or research project that synthesizes everything you have learned.

Life After Getting a Natural Sciences Degree

Because of the dramatic rise of science and technology in the last couple of centuries, degrees in the natural sciences are highly useful. The most common application is in the research of any given field. But degrees in natural sciences can also be used as springboards for careers in other areas. For example, a bachelor’s in physics can easily lead to work in engineering, especially if students combine this with a minor or higher degree in an engineering field.

Other highly accessible occupations with a natural sciences degree include doctor, teacher or professor, surveyor, chemist, material scientist, biologist, physicist, geologist, and more. Due to the highly demanding nature of most of these positions, they usually pay quite well. If we take a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median professors make a median pay of 78,470 dollars per year. And engineers make a median of 91,010 dollars, while geoscientists make a median of 91,1300 dollars per year. Each of these fields is also growing steadily, so now is the time to join their ranks.

Natural Sciences of Living Organisms

As a branch, life science is biological science. These terms are interchangeable; however, the various subdivisions within the branch of science include focuses and definitions of different living organisms. Fields, definitions, and articles that I introduce in this science category tend to focus on specific creatures, their functions, their compositions, and their interaction with the world around them. For example, botany focuses on plants, and ecology focuses on ecosystems. Moreover, studies in this area often enhance the quality of life for animals, plants, ecosystems, and humans alike.

Natural Sciences of Non-living Organisms

As a branch, life science is biological science. These terms are interchangeable; however, the various subdivisions within the branch of science include focuses and definitions of different living organisms. Fields, descriptions, and articles that I introduce in this science category tend to focus on specific creatures, their functions, their compositions, and their interaction with the world around them. For example, botany focuses on plants, and ecology focuses on ecosystems. Moreover, studies in this area often enhance the quality of life for animals, plants, ecosystems, and humans alike.

In summary, people think of physics as the fundamental study of matter and atoms. Then, chemistry expands on it by focusing on specific qualities and interactions of particles. The Earth and space sciences zoom out further until you notice particles less and materials more. At this point, you can sometimes forget that the vastness of the planet and space come from such small origins! But as you read articles I provide here, you will continuously see the connections between the definitions and meanings of these various natural sciences.

Primary Branches of the Natural Sciences

Across the entire list of branches in the natural sciences is a common goal: discovery. The things you and I experience and see daily hold many mysteries. Someone who doesn’t know the principles of some aspects of the natural world can’t possibly understand how these phenomena occur. To discover more about the mysteries of the natural world, a list of branches of the study help to pinpoint specific elements of the world around us. Each one plays a vital role in building our understanding of the natural world.

Four primary branches of natural science exist in academia. Biology, chemistry, physics, and astrology are all similar in their approach to discovery. Each utilizes simple definitions of the natural science experts observe to develop theories about findings. As each list of questions grows, more and more projects within the natural sciences emerge, each offering more meaning to the field of study. While it may seem overwhelming, the neverending discovery of new questions and inquiries into the natural world helps to fuel the field of education.

Let’s examine the list of branches of the natural sciences and their meaning. By doing so, you can hopefully see where each topic overlaps and differs from one another. I think it’s essential to learn each branch carefully to develop a complete picture of the list of natural sciences we study every day.

Overhead view of biologists working with plants and petri dishes in lab

Biology and the Living World

Animals, plants, microorganisms, and humans are all types of living things studied within biological sciences. Work in this area seeks to describe and understand living organisms from their physical structure, chemical processes, and molecular interactions to their development, evolution, and ecological interactions.

The science articles I link to on this subject include a wide range of topics. You can read a rundown of a number of them here, or check out individual articles that go more in-depth for particular issues. As a natural science, the branch of biology has broad definitions as well as applications. Studies within the field frequently inform the industries of agriculture, food science, medicine, pharmaceutical sciences, and veterinary sciences.

Principles of Biology

While I am sure you will find that there is a lot of complexity within this branch of natural science, I also hope to show that it is a unified approach to interpreting the world of living organisms. Firstly, biology identifies cells as the most basic unit of life. All things comprised of cells, therefore, are living organisms. Secondly, people know that genes as the source of heredity. Lastly, evolution is the premise for both the creation and extinction of all species. It is through the ability to adapt and transform a species either thrives or becomes extinct.

Of note, biology contains two central fields: theoretical and experimental. In the former area of research, biologists use mathematical means to create abstract, quantitative models of living organisms. This modeling allows researchers to identify and quantify governing structures of living organisms, as well as the behavior and development of those systems. Experimental biology, on the other hand, conducts physical experiments designed to prove theories.

Natural Sciences Physics Laboratory. Health methods

Chemistry and Reactions of Matter

Chemistry is ultimately the science of matter, meaning it is contingent on atomic particles coming together to form various bonds. This area of natural science takes an interest in the definitions of chemical behavior, composition, properties, structure, and reactions. More so, the field looks at how these elements change concerning chemical reactions.

Chemists primarily focus on how atoms interact with one another to create chemical bonds. These bonds form chemical compounds that can be further tested and analyzed. As such, analysis of these elements and their microscopic components make the field broadly applicable to other areas and within applied sciences.

As a broad base of knowledge for numerous fields within the life sciences, other physical sciences, and applied sciences, I think of chemistry as the glue holding together much of our meaning of the world. The processes analyzed and the discoveries made through chemical experimentation have made it generally invaluable to a well-rounded education in science.

Looking onto open waters from an underwater cave or cavern at Ginnie Springs in Gilchrist County Florida

Earth Sciences and the Planet

Planet Earth is the foundation for all studies and interests as humans work to understand their home better. Earth sciences, or geosciences, literally study the planet through several fields focused on unique aspects of it.

As a branch of natural science within the physical sciences, I will further break down Earth science articles into several fields for discussion. These fields are atmospheric sciences, geology, geography, oceanography, and planetary science. Within each of these fields are specific areas and articles of scientific study that focus on unique natural phenomena.

The Four Main Sub-Fields

Atmospheric sciences investigate the properties and processes of the atmosphere. Climate studies are essential within this field and include investigating the basic principles and chemical properties of the outermost layer of the Earth’s ecosystem.

Geology studies Earth’s components. Some geological studies also study the history of these components to understand their development better. From the study of prehistoric life (paleontology) to the study of modern environmental problems (environmental geology), geology encompasses a large body of knowledge to discern numerous aspects about Earth itself.

Geography is the study of the terrestrial surface, including how it forms, what landscapes exist, and how animals and humans populate and use it. Within this field are numerous forms of applied science and social science, making it highly interdisciplinary. Due to this multidisciplinary nature, you may want to broaden your scope by reading articles outside of the natural sciences. For example, you could check out the humanities material that I cover in another definitive guide.

Next, oceanography is the study of the ocean’s physical and biological properties. Some oceanographers map the ocean floor while others study the sea from a biological perspective. They all join in contributing to this field.

Planetary science investigates planetary systems, including planets themselves and their moons. This field continues to grow with space exploration and the frequent discovery of new space elements.

Magnetic force field around two bar magnets showing attraction between the north and south poles visualised with iron filings scattered on the paper over the magnet

Physics and Matter

Matter, motion, space, time, energy, force—these components create the foundation for the field of physics. This branch of natural science aims to understand how the universe behaves through an extensive analysis of nature.

In the natural sciences articles and other material I provide here, you will see how physicists can identify the rules and definitions of nature through the use of the scientific method. They can investigate the elements that interact to create and change energy and force. Moreover, the field consistently updates our understanding of non-living organisms through experimentation and analysis.

Interestingly, physics is a highly applicable science informing engineering and applied mathematics. Without a strong understanding of the principles and meanings within this discipline, innovations in science would be far more limited.

I would argue that physics is the mother of all physical sciences since it looks at all things relating to the matter. This investigation includes motion, time, space, force, and energy. It studies everything from tiny subatomic particles to entire galaxies and the universe itself. This science involves plenty of calculations that many people find challenging, but the materials and articles I cover here go to great effort to provide extra assistance.

Natural Sciences Satellite in orbit around the Earth

Space Sciences Beyond Our Planet

Although people typically refer to space science only as astronomy, it is an enormous discipline involving space exploration, the study of natural phenomena in space, the study of planets and other physical bodies, and more. Ultimately, this natural science focuses on understanding the universe and breaking down the unknown into more familiar concepts.

Within the space sciences, there are many subtopics of astronomy such as aerospace engineering, astrobiology, cosmology, planetary science, forensic astronomy, space archaeology, space medicine, space architecture, and so many more. Of these, astronomy and aerospace engineering are perhaps the most famous.

Briefly, astronomy aims to understand celestial entities through various means, including observation and mathematical modeling. Beyond those “basics,” there is a large amount of theorizing about the universe. Aerospace engineering, however, involves the movement of humans and objects into space. Namely, within this discipline, astronauts and engineers are seeking to understand the universe through more physical encounters.

Frequency Asked Questions About the Natural Sciences

Now that you have a simple definition of the meaning of natural science, it’s time to dive deeper into critical elements and inquiries of the subject.

What subjects do the natural sciences include?

The natural sciences look at all parts of the natural world and its physical phenomena. Thus, the primary subjects are biology, chemistry, physics, Earth science, and space science. Within each of these subjects are narrower, but often interdisciplinary, fields of specialization.

What does a degree in the natural sciences entail?

Degree programs in the natural sciences will be rigorous in math and science. Core classes will include classes in the natural sciences as well as courses in the other main branches of the sciences and outside of the sciences all-together. Classes later in the degree, gain a more narrow focus and may start to focus more on research field projects.

What difference is there between natural science and formal science?

Natural science uses the scientific method to make observations and gather evidence about phenomena in the natural world. Repeatability of discoveries and subsequent peer review ensure the validity of the findings. The formal sciences provide languages that organize and characterize systems of thought.

What jobs can you get using a degree in natural science?

The career paths in the natural sciences are varied and attractive while usually providing high pay. Some examples include biologists, chemists, physicists, or geologist. Some standard job titles that someone with a degree in these fields can hold are technician, teacher, researcher, consultant, or engineer.

Conclusion

I hope the above information has made it clear how diverse and vibrant the field of natural science is. There’s so much to cover in this domain that I couldn’t get close to exploring it in detail. But it is my goal that you will have found something that encourages you to dig deeper into the fascinating wealth of information on the subject. If there is something you haven’t tried before, give it a go. Maybe you’re familiar biology, but have never worked and online course on it. Or perhaps physics interests you, but you always found the math too intimidating to give it it a try.

Well, now is your chance! By getting involved in one of the natural sciences, you will open the door to a myriad of opportunities. Degrees in the field lead to fascinating jobs that put you on track to make a difference in society. And if you already have a degree, there is always room to hone your skills further. You can use these materials to move up the ladder or even make a change in the direction you want to go in your career.

Continue Learning about the Natural Sciences

Nobody can learn every meaning and concept of natural science in one day. Formal students take college courses over 4-8 years to master the subject. In turn, not everyone can divide their time from work or social obligations to be a full-time student. Many who wish to learn about the natural sciences cannot take college classes for one reason or another. So, where can you continue learning about these topics from home?

It’s no surprise online learning is becoming so popular. The ability to take courses or read books in your free time allows students freedom and flexibility. Several sites specialize in one field or topic, and some who charge a fee to use the content. At Dave4Math, I want you to have access to information on several issues for free. That’s why you don’t have to pay to use this site and its articles. That’s also why you can talk with other students for free and network around your newfound passions and academic goals.

Dave4Math can be the tool you need to further your education no matter what you do for a living or where you call home. Get started with the site for free today!

How might the natural sciences impact your job or profession, even if you don’t work in science? 

What contemporary issues might develop new questions within the study of the natural sciences?

David A. Smith at Dave4Math

David Smith (Dave) has a B.S. and M.S. in Mathematics and has enjoyed teaching precalculus, calculus, linear algebra, and number theory at both the junior college and university levels for over 20 years. David is the founder and CEO of Dave4Math.

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