Folks who make my acquaintance sooner or later begin to suspect me to be something of a science geek. Guilty as charged. Truth is, my passion in this regard ranges from hard, fact-based science and far-ranging science theory, all the way to plain ‘ol science fiction.
So it eventually comes as no shock to friends when I try to steer discussions toward such topics. Sadly, in most cases, my invitation to dialogue is met with polite head-nodding followed by an increasingly vacant stare. Or outright here-we-go-again eye rolling.
I don’t mind. In fact, I don’t blame them. Different strokes for different folks, I say. Case in point: some of my friends and relatives hold great passion for things like professional wrestling, romance novels or HGTV. Me? Pass.
When I was younger, some people accused me of having my head in the clouds. That is, I was thinking about things that to them ultimately didn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things. For instance, when I talked about stars, most inferred television and film celebrities.
Of course, I meant far off worlds that might hold other intelligent life (unlike TV & movies). Statistically it’s a virtual certainty, yet there’s no observable data to support the claim. Despite my deepest dreams, seeing is believing. Now that’s what I call an inconvenient truth.
There’s no whiz-bang intellect in my noodle that justifies the passion I hold for science. Still, my world view can often keep a lot of people from engaging in what I consider interesting conversation and conjecture. In fact, a lot of stuff I like to go on about squarely resides in the wheelhouse of most people’s, “Who gives a darn?”
They’ve got a point. Despite my love of it, modern science can also chap my hide. My biggest beef is that humankind keeps believing we have it all figured out. Take the dinosaur thing. Back when I was a kid, scientists were certain they were cold-blooded like reptiles; now we believe them to have been warm blooded like us.
Or, once upon a time we were sure the smallest elemental particles were atoms. Positive of it. That is, until we discovered electrons. And protons and neutrons. Then muons and bosons. It goes on.
Even science’s simpler mysteries can be exercises in unprovable conjecture. Like where the mate to a socks goes after doing laundry. Good money used to be on gremlins; now, thanks to the science of Calvin and Hobbes, I’m squarely in the transmogrifier camp, with the dryer doubling as some sort of multi-dimensional transporter. The problem once again though is verifiable proof.
Fractals, wormholes, microchimerism, implicit bias – these are all science terms (look ‘em up) that stimulate my imagination. And curiosity. Even concepts that I initially struggled with in math, like integrals and derivatives, have become dear to me. Despite their aloofness as it relates to my initial inability to comprehend them in practical terms (i.e., during test-taking), conceptually, they invoked and continue to provoke in me a desire to better understand the world.
What does it all mean? Why should such high minded concepts be on the radar of a relatively-speaking mid-brow individual such as myself? Two words: curiosity and imagination.
Thanks to the level of technology we’ve achieved, today’s youth are collectively being robbed of those two most useful traits known to humanity. Computer simulations and digital effects reign supreme, leaving less and less to the imagination. Or is that really the case?
Time will tell if this period in history marks a decline in human innovation or serves as the launch point toward something altogether innovative and unique. Here’s to the unknown. Let’s go exploring!
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.