Manipulation - A definition:
\"Any action performed on a system of a given initial state with hopefully some prior knowledge of the possible outcome (the next state transition of the system that the action will entail), throws a completely new light on the subject\".
Consider an example. We know that if we heat ice we will get water. In turn we can say that we can manipulate ice into water. Even better we can say we can \"convert\" ice into water.
Consider another example. We know that if a person is angry, if we
be nice to him, he may calm down. Instead, we also know that, if we be
mean to him he would become angrier. Now when a Boss calms down an
angry employee, this is called \"management\".
But instead, if opposite happens, say a politician that feeds more anger to an already angry crowd in hopes of making it more destructive, we would say this action is a manipulation.
Similarly if an investor buys stocks in hopes of genuine returns in
future, it is an investment, but if a stock broker spreads rumors to bid
down a stock so that he can derive illegal profit by shorting it, it is
a form of a manipulative activity (or may even be a crime, depending on
Clearly all actions have consequences. In general we can say that when the consequences are life affirming, they are considered positive, and when damaging, they may be labeled manipulation, morally reprehensible, or even crime.
In the scientific context, the word manipulation typically means a
new discovery or a scientifically proven trick that can reliably
convert the physical state of the matter or a system in to another by
taking a certain action.
For example: The recent discovery that Light
wave front can be slowed down was described in many scientific journals
as \"light can now be manipulated to slow down to a crawl\" (citation
needed). Scientific or non scientific, positive results or damaging,
the principles are the same.
There is a system, there is an action done on it, with the intention of transitioning the system to a next state. This next state, which can either be more desirable or undesirable depending on the point of views of the entities involved. When undesirable the action leading to the state can be called a manipulation, or otherwise generally we always have a better term (like convert, manage, guide, groom, love, develop, etc.).