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Examples from human needs are numerous: Weaponry, agriculture, and medicine are broad areas that have developed from human needs. The science of cancer research, for example, is driven by human need, not just curiosity. More interesting, perhaps, from a historical standpoint, are those example of science driven purely by human curiosity, and here no better example can be put forward than space exploration, from the moon landings to the space probes of distant moons and planets. While these scientific projects have many earth-bound benefits (electronics and the like), their origins lie in the universal curiosity of humans to understand, to examine, to explain, to take things apart simply to see how they are put together, like a child with grandpa’s old watch. The need is not to make it work again but to see how it once worked. Another area where curiosity, more than need, was the driving influence, is archeology, where the remnants of ancient civilizations invite scientists to solve the puzzle by recreating the whole picture from the pieces left behind (the analogy to jigsaw puzzles is also appropriate in that the recreational activity itself is the point, rather than just the final result). (If exploration is “scientific”, then the explorers of the 15th century acted on both human need and on curiosity.) There is no actual human need to recreate the Mayan culture or to explain Stonehenge, although they seem to have caught the scientific human curiosity. (Somewhere in the middle is the scientific examination of the Shroud of Turin, more than just curiosity drives that science).
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