At least that has always been my take on science. I thoroughly enjoyed my science (and math) classes throughout school, going so far as to earn a BS in Physics from UTA many moons ago. It was with great interest that I read the “Message from the Dean” titled “Why science?” in the fall 2011 issue of Maverick Science. Pamela Jansma, Dean of the College of Science at UTA did an excellent job of describing why science has always been and will continue to be of paramount importance to society. Read her timely musings with regards to the question, “Why science?” below:
“In the technologically driven society of today, we understand and appreciate the utility of advanced devices to deliver drugs and directions, faster computers to improve data transmission and analysis, and alternative energies to transform industries and transportation. What we frequently don’t recognize, however, is the underlying science and its connection to technology.
Science comes from the Latin scire, which means “to know.” Scientists seek to know, or understand, the universe around us. Curiosity drives them. They delve ever deeper to get at the fundamental essence of nature through testing ideas and refining hypotheses. Layers are peeled away one at a time.
The phenomena being observed occur increasingly at smaller and smaller scales: macroscopic to microscopic, cellular to molecular, atomic to sub-atomic. Through this, progress can be unpredictable.
Steps can be incremental, but build through time creating leaps in understanding at unexpected moments and in unanticipated directions.
While seeming inefficient, this nonlinear path of discovery is essential to the accumulation of knowledge. By asking why and responding to the hints of each potential answer, science guides the way forward and forms the framework for invention.
Without the contemplation of why, we would not have the action of how. When Johannes Kepler sought to explain the motion of the celestial bodies, he was not imagining the placement of communications satellites around the Earth.
When Marie Curie pondered radioactivity, she did not dream of therapies that would be effective in the treatment of cancer. And when Gregor Mendel wondered what caused variations in pea plants, he likely did not foresee the genetic engineering of food and disease-resistant crops.
These outcomes happened years, if not centuries, later. Indeed, the work of Mendel had little impact on the society of the nineteenth century and was largely ignored. Yet he stands today as the father of modern genetics.
Every day, we are besieged with evidence of the weakening of American competiveness in technical fields. Fingers point to universities, which are hailed as ivory towers conducting esoteric and irrelevant research for the most part with exceptions granted only if results are immediately applicable to providing solutions to recognized problems.
Scientists must constantly remind us of the importance of asking why and the nonlinear path to discovery. Our future depends on it.”
I strongly agree that science is important and needs society’s support and I think that scientists and science geeks should be proud of their interests and accomplishments and share their enthusiasm with others. What better way to start a conversation about what you love to do than when someone compliments you on your fashionable science, math or tech themed piece of jewelry or accessory? I started carrying a small assortment of just such items almost a year and a half ago. I have recently discovered some exciting new supplies that I expect will allow me to expand my selection. Keep an eye on EclecticSkeptic’s “Geekery” section as I add new items later this year. You can also watch for announcements of my new items on my blog, EclecticDesignChoice's facebook page (like it for updates) or in my newsletter if you have subscribed to it.
And don’t think that you missed the boat to get involved with science because you didn’t get a science degree. There are many citizen scientist opportunities that you can get involved with that are fun and will contribute greatly to our understanding of our world.