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An environment is a complex of external factors. It acts on a system and determines its course and form of existence. An environment may be thought of as a superset, of which the given system is a subset. An environment may have one or more parameters, physical or otherwise. The environment of a given system must interact with that system in order for it to sustain and develop.Generally, the environment or milieu of some object or action consists of the substances, circumstances, objects, or conditions by which it is surrounded or in which it occurs. (Although the two terms are usually synonyms, some sciences prefer the less common milieu to avoid confusion with the more wider-known meanings of environment in ecology, politics, and sociology).Either word may be used with specialized meaning in various contexts.

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Computer science and informatics
Liberal arts and social science
Life science
Natural environment
Physical science

Computer science and informatics - Contents

  • In computer science, the term generally means data, processes or devices which, although not explicitly named as parameters of a computation, may nevertheless affect its outcome.
    • In functional programming, lambda calculus, and programming languages, it usually means identifiers that are defined outside a given function but can be used in it. In other words, everything with global or otherwise non-local scope to that function.
    • In certain operating systems like Unix, DOS, and Microsoft Windows, the environment is a set of environment variables in the form of var=value used by applications and libraries to affect default preferences.
    • More generally, it may also mean the hardware and operating system on which a program is executed; see system platform.

Liberal arts and social science - Contents

  • In non-technical contexts, such as politics, it often refers to the natural environment, that part of the natural world that is deemed valuable or important by human beings, for any reason. See natural environment.
  • In literature, history, and sociology, it is the culture that an individual lives or was educated in, and the people and institutions with whom he interacts. See social environment.
  • In fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy it can refer to any fictional universe or setting in which different stories are set. Thus the Star Wars sagas are all in one milieu while the various Star Trek series, movies, and books are in different milieus. This meaning is also relevant to fantasy roleplaying games. See fictional universe, constructed world and fantasy world.
  • In any kind of organization or enterprise, it may also refer to the social and psychological conditions that are felt by its members. See work environment.
  • In any kind of meeting or congress, it may signify the prevailing mood or preferences of the participants.

Life science - Contents

  • In biology, environment may be defined as the complex of climatic, biotic, social and edaphic factors that acts upon an organism and determines its form and survival. It, therefore, includes everything that may directly affect the metabolism or behaviour of a living organism or species, including light, air, water, soil, and other living beings. See natural environment and natural selection.
  • In architecture, ergonomy, and work safety, it is the ensemble of elements of a room or building that affect the well-being and efficiency of its occupants—including dimensions and arrangement of living spaces and furniture, light, ventilation, temperature, noise, etc. It may also refer to the collection of built structures. See built environment.
  • See geography for a subject that is a study of the environment. (Terms like SOSE (Studies of Society & the Environment) not only refer to environmental studies, but also social sciences.)
  • In psychology, environmentalism is the theory that environment (in the general and social sense) plays a greater role than heredity in determining an individual's development. More significantly, the environment is an important factor in many psychological theories.

Natural environment - Contents

  • Natural environment is used, for example in environmental science and environmentalism, to refer to ecological systems relatively unaffected by human activity.

Physical science - Contents

  • In thermodynamics, it refers to any objects that are not part of the system under study, and may receive or provide heat to it; see surroundings (thermodynamics).
  • In chemistry and biochemistry, it is the chemical nature of a solution in which a reaction takes place, chiefly its pH (i.e. whether it is acidic or alkaline).
  • In metallurgy and ceramics, it often refers to the oxidizing or reductive character of the gases or flames prevailing during some high-temperature process.
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