Friday, November 4, 2011

Living in a State of Scientific Wonderment

I have noticed a disturbing trend with a lot of people, mostly that when I tell them I am a science major they give me a dumbfounded look and ask “What’s wrong with you?” or “Why would you put yourself through that?” and you know in all honesty screw them. I’m tired of playing nice about this; I’m tired of people greedily lapping up the results of science, while insulting those who participate in it. I’m tired of people who are too lazy or have let themselves be brainwashed into thinking science isn’t ‘cool’ disparage my career choice. If I’m having trouble in my class and say something about it or stay in to study instead of going to college night somebody always tells me “Well pick an easier major”.
                I didn’t chose my major so I can shill BS in class and pass, or because it would give me more time to party, and every person I’ve talked to who says they picked their major for those reasons have said that they either regret it or life hasn’t been as much fun since they left college. The traditional college experience lasts only four or five years and humans are living longer than ever, so instead of picking a career where you would live for the weekend so that those five years are easy and filled with booze, why not choose something you love and do that for the rest of your life.
                That is what I chose to do; I love my classes—every semester I look forward to learning new ideas and developing new tools for my future career. Is it going to be hard? Hell yes, I have no delusions about that, and yes I am nervous about the next few steps, but I also am anxious. I like learning, and am tired of college students who write it off as just something they have to trudge through on their way to their next kegger.
                Science lets you live your life with the wonderment and amazement of a child, science not only encourages you but rewards you for asking “why?” I am not a morning person, so I get my day started with coffee, and some mornings when I’m pouring my coffee, it will come out of the spout and seemingly defy gravity as it rushes down the side of the pot only to spill onto the counter where the pot ends. Most people are just annoyed at this momentary delay in their daily schedule. I, however, am not, instead I think about the physical properties of water, how it is a polar molecule with a slight charge at the ends like a magnet. I think about cohesion and adhesion, and sometimes if I am tired enough to let my mind wander far enough, I’ll think about how water aids in chemical reactions and by doing so allowed life to arise on this planet and how on some far off distant planet the same processes may be happening on some new life form is growing up in the water. So I’ll stand there transfixed by the beauty of the universe which was just displayed for me in that tiny little inconvenience that most would either shrug off as inconsequential or bemoan as a horrible waste of their time.
                That is the great thing about science.  If you know enough, the universe is constantly presenting its wonders to you in some form or another. For example, look at the wall in front of you; do you see its color? That is because outer shell electrons are being excited by the light striking them, jumping up in energy levels and then dropping back to their more comfortable position and as they do, they emit tiny massless packets of energy called a photon, which also acts as a wave, which then travels at the speed of light to your eye so you can perceive its color. Go walk across a grassy field, you are stomping on your cousins just removed by  over a billion years of evolution. Look up at night, see those stars? Those are balls of gas under so much pressure due to the force of gravity caused by their huge masses that they are causing nuclear fusion to occur at their cores. Every little speck of light is a hydrogen bomb factory produces massive explosions which pump out the heavier elements of our universe.  Oh and by the way, a lot of those stars have planets orbiting them, and some of those planets might even have life.
                So, if you are not a scientist, a science major, or science enthusiast, and someone tells you they are don’t ask “What is wrong with you?” but instead ask “Why?” Ask what makes them so passionate that they would dedicate a large portion of their fleeting existence to the process of science and trust me they will tell you. They will explain to you why they do what they do with the wide eyed innocence of a child and with all the enthusiasm of one as well. Because in the end, that is the reason I study science.  I like to live in a state of wonderment that can only come as a result of delving past the surface on the mundane world into the why’s and how’s of its inner workings.

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