I was “good” at science and math in school, and that ended up helping me to a decent career and fairly prosperous life. But being “good at science” in school is not why I like science now. I think the world got off on the wrong foot about science, and I think I know one of the moments when that happened.
Remember the tale of Thomas Edison and him trying something like 2,000 different things before finding something that would work for a filament?
Well, the world was SO enamored of Edison and his wonderful, persevering on the incandescent light, but that was a terrible moment for most people. It was the PERFECT public face to put on for a certain type of people, about both inventing and science, but not for the rest of us. They sent – and KEEP sending this message:
BEWARE! INVENTING IS HARD! SCIENCE IS HARD! ONLY SPECIAL PEOPLE CAN DO THIS! Only the astute and clever need apply! The rest of you shits, go away!
Between you and me and the fly on the wall, I think it is more or less the opposite:
Science is rather accommodating, actually. Inventing and science are hard for those who have no flexibility of mind and no imagination (yes, such people exist) – the clerks of the world. PARTS of both inventing and science are FOR the weenies of the world, those who are essentially clerks – the plodders who just want to fill in blansk on forms. Well science has solitary offices or cubicles in basements for that kind of people, but they should never call them full-fledged scientists. They are more like science clerks – those who love to do drudge work.. They are the butterfly collectors and stamp collectors and accountants.
But science for some is actually FUN. That is what underlies the popularity of alternate researchers and their books, people like Graham Hancock and Christopher Dunn. These individuals wake up in people the idea that science can be FUN. Discovery IS fun.
Science is discovery. For each student, science will come to him, ONCE HE SEES THAT THE PUZZLES AND CONUNDRUMS ARE FUN TO THINK ABOUT.
Each one needs to open that discovery door for himself. No teacher can do it for him. And when he does – when discovery comes a-knocking – he will to some degree be hooked for life.
Science itself is CONNECTIONS, making connections, both mentally and even in the physical world. It’s all about seeing connections and making them real. Learning how to connect CANNOT be taught in a classroom aimed at the average mentality. It can ONLY be taught by a one-on-one mentor or by one’s self. Occasionally a classroom teacher will take a kid under his/her wing and with special attention help this happen. But normally it’s one-on-one or a self-didact (self-taught person). Only light bulbs going off in a person’s head can make that happen for him. Until one discovers how COOL it is to see some connection that was hidden a moment before, a person doesn’t know how much fun science IS.
But it is amazing how much clerical there is in science, as it is formulated today. So much to bore, so much to repel, so much to fend off the imaginations of the people of the world. So much to keep it to the ivory tower people who hide behind the “IT’S SO HARD!” smoke screen.
The alternate researchers have done it right, in spite of themselves. They simply put interesting facts and surmises on bookshelves (both literal and cyber). And the readers either get off on it or don’t. MANY DO.
Schools, by externally demanding memorization, and with comparison testing (kids vs their peers), schools miss the mark. There IS no demand in science – except the internal demand to discover and wonder.
The scientist in each person wakes up a little bit every time there is a problem at home or in the office with computers or light bulbs or lighting pilot lights or mixing mortar for a small brick wall or building a shed. All those entail physics or chemistry or electricity, all of which are parts of science. Solving practical problems around the house or office are all experiments. And we grow smarter every time we solve one of those. For good reason we pat ourselves on the backs for having solved those real world problems.
And when you hare about a new puzzle in science, go ahead and think about it, what kind of solution might be out there. It’s okay to exercise your brain a bit, and when the solution is found later (many are), then you will be able to appreciate the solution all that much more. The world becomes a little better place when “even” normal people think about these things.