Hooray for Science!

I have never been especially science-oriented.  As a kid in school, science never even came close to being my favorite subject.

 But now I feel differently.   I find science much more interesting, exciting even, than I ever did when I took all those science courses back in high school.  

 My enthusiasm for science has been growing for some time.  When I ask myself why, the answer seems correlated with my intensifying love for the natural world.  As that love has deepened over the years, my desire to learn more about animals, plants, and natural processes has also grown.  Pursuing that curiosity about our living planet in order to write about what I learn here on TheEarthConnection has been fun, and at times even awe-inspiring.

For example, I loved learning how Indian Pipes could be plants, despite their absence of chlorophyll, why palm trees are classified as grasses rather than as trees, how birds keep warm in the winter.  And so much more!

Reading, a few years ago, THE SONG OF THE DODO by science writer David Quammen, piqued my interest in evolutionary biology.  Quammen had set out to find out more about island ecology, since we are increasingly creating  ’islands’ by cutting unspoiled land into smaller pieces that are separated from each other.  His book reads like a detective story, as he tells us not just about the science but the human biographies that led to the science in the first place.  He writes a lot about evolution, how it works, and the efforts of Darwin and Wallace and others that contributed to our knowledge of this truly amazing process.

Quammen made me realize that I LOVE learning about evolutionary biology!  Who knew?

But probably the reason I’m feeling excited enough about science to want to write about it now is that I have fallen under the spell of a charismatic astrophysicist whose own love of science is irresistible!  The scientist is Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the series COSMOS:  A Space-Time Odyssey, airing Sunday evenings on FOX.  

Tyson’s passion for all things scientific is infectious!  He tells of one fascinating scientific discovery after another.  He blew my mind by showing  how, if the history of the universe were compressed into a single calendar year, our human existence would not show up until December 31!  And late in the day at that.

In addition to telling us so much about the universe, the solar system, and our own planet, Tyson relates stories of some of history’s great scientists.  He makes it clear that powerful interests such as the Catholic Church, the wealthy fossil fuels industry, even the male science establishment have not always welcomed the honest pursuit of truth.

We are introduced to Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for maintaining that the universe was infinite.  We learn about Cecilia H. Payne, an early twentieth century astronomer whose work revealed the composition of the stars, but who received little recognition for her pioneering work because she was a woman.  We meet Clair Patterson who, in the 1940s, discovered that the lead being added to gasoline had became so widespread in the environment that it had found its way into the bodies of just about everyone.  Since lead is a potent neurotoxin, Patterson tried to sound the alarm, only to be attacked and vilified by the petroleum industry.  It took many years before lead was removed from gasoline.

Learning about these, and other, scientists’ pursuit of the truth, wherever it led them, makes me grateful for their willingness to stand up for truth, regardless of personal cost.  

I see these brave scientists in the same light in which I view today’s climate scientists.  With the fossil fuels industry hard at work sowing doubt about the validity of well-established climate science, some of these scientists are stepping out of the traditional role of scientist to become activists.   They are moving far from their comfort zone to urge our elected leaders to act.   

So, I have become an admirer of science, and of scientists who dedicate themselves to an honest pursuit of the truth.–April Moore 

 

 

3 Responses to “Hooray for Science!”

  1. Todd Waymon Says:

    Bravo April! And welcome to the club!!

  2. James Says:

    Mr. Tyson is indeed, inspiring. His series on scientific wonders is followed widely. I once stumbled upon a surprising example of the insignificance of the human presence on this earth where everyone presently alive is formed into a pyramid shape which quite nicely settles into the immense space of the centre of the Grand Canyon. As for scientists and the consensus of opinion regarding climate change, a most highly regarded scientist, Lennart Bengtsson, balked at the consensus, only to be shunned by his peers, leading to his resignation. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/climate-scientists-mixed-over-controversy-surrounding-respected-researcher-a-971033.html

  3. Gail S Says:

    Welcome, April, to the sleuthing of the natural world. When I was a lot younger and trying to choose my future I was choosing between two passions–dance and science. Ultimately I decided that the life of a dancer was short lived compared to that of someone in science. But you caught the clinching reason. Curiosity and seeking truth. I really appreciated this post. It relit a banked fire. It would inspire children balking at the “hard” study of science!! You rock girl!

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