I just attended a Think Inc. organized talk with Brian Greene last night. It was an event I was excited about because the other event I looked forward to- an evening with Richard Dawkins got cancelled due to his poor health. But last evening was my first experience with one of the big-wigs of science that I grew up watching . No, I cannot claim to be an expert in physics but my earliest and fondest memory is of engaging in discussions about physics, science and life with my father and sister while watching Brian Greene chronicling the events leading to what we know about the observable universe and theoretically probable but currently inobservable parallel worlds. Learning of gravity, general relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory– terms which we all claim to know but probably don’t really know. This, during a time when I was quickly getting disinterested and disappointed in my physics experience in high school. Few things truly create impressions on us, but the feeling that you finally UNDERSTAND an aspect of the universe (or multiverse) is one of them.
When I was young- reading Jane Goodall, watching Attenborough and Brian Greene, I was convinced that I wanted to ultimately be a science journalist- a wish I had until my first year of undergrad. When I finally started a blog, I was sure I could use it as a diary of my journey through academia- science, people, research etc. It didn’t happen. Not that I had nothing to say about science- I do, it is a very important part of my being. However I never seemed to find the right words or a moment where I could be sure I was right or an authority. Moreover there seemed to be a depressing number of ignorant people- educated but adamant and condescending in their strong beliefs. It is a common phenomenon, scientists getting disheartened by society when they look beyond collegiate environments. Helplessly watching as sensationalised drivel is passed as science and lapped up by the masses.
Science communication was an important part of the discussion last evening. Brian Greene was apparently warned against taking the ‘fantastic’ ideas of string theory to the lay person back in the day. The main argument being that ‘it wasn’t complete’ and the science community might have been wrong about its details. But the single most inspiring thing I heard is a fact I know and love about science. A lesson that has been reiterated because I am taking a subject called Communication for research scientists. “It is the story that matters”. The whole idea of science is that one must be ready to be wrong at any time. We can’t then, wait around for the perfect moment when everything will be figured out. Engaging the public is important to raise a new generation of scientifically inclined world citizens.
It occurred to me that I have been doing fieldwork for months now and research related things since before then. And yet, I have been hesitant to discuss the single most important aspect of who I am- a student of science. My data collection is part of the story, the reason why we read and enjoy people like Jane Goodall and Robert Sapolsky. I may or may not become an illustrious biologist with hundreds of papers and thousands of citations but if I can inspire even a few individuals to be more curious about the world around them; to cast aside the cobwebs of ignorance and associated bliss to peer into the fascinating world around us- I will be a happy camper.
So here is my resolution- one I had made on New Year’s but obviously did not follow through. I intend to blog about my research, associated research and things that I’m passionate about. Perhaps at least some of my words will percolate down despite the barrage of information that hits us daily. And I can hope that someone somewhere will experience their moment- when they realise that they UNDERSTOOD some aspect of the world that they never appreciated.