I’m Not a Scientist. Oh Yes You Are!

I'm Not a Scientist. Oh Yes You Are!


I’m not a scientist. Actually in some ways I am. I went to nursing school and for three years I read nothing but science related to disease, the anatomy of the body, the physiology of the body, how bacteria and viruses live among us. But those are blatant examples. Anyone who operates a piece of machinery whether utilizing electricity or wireless is working with science. Definition: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the host of the new television show STAR TALK and an astrophysicist states: “Pop culture at face value views science as this other thing. Until you realize that science is everywhere, it affects everything that you do, it affects how you communicate, it affects your health, it affects your future, it affects your wealth. And StarTalk is an exercise in highlighting for the public what role science actually plays in the survival of a society.”

Tyson has guests on his show, some truly involved in the practice of science like Bill Nye the Science Guy, but others like Jimmy Carter and Arianna Huffington who find connections with science in their daily lives and acknowledge the importance of those connections. Talk can be about current culture—which is really the point—science is part of our lives. Tyson says: “I think it’s a first rise, a science appetite being revealed in the hearts and minds of the public. And among the various points of evidence we point to is the wholly and unpredicted success of the TV sitcom the Big Bang Theory. …if you had been a network executive and someone walked up and said ‘I have an idea—let’s have five scientists and an engineer and they’re all friends and they talk about their job, speak science fluently and half the time you will not explain what it is they’re saying’—that’d be a great show, wouldn’t it—you’d be out on the street five minutes later.”

But The Big Bang Theory is in its 8th season: five characters living in Pasadena , California, two physicists who share an apartment; a waitress and aspiring actress who later becomes a pharmaceutical representative, a geeky and socially awkward aerospace engineer and an astrophysicist like Tyson.

The point that Tyson is making and that the popularity of the television show reveals, is that we are all ready for new knowledge and for expanding on the basics of knowledge that we already have. Children ask the question WHY and when you provide an answer, they often immediately say WHY? The chain of questions reveals that we all want to make connections between our experience and an understanding of that experience. Kids love science–they love learning how things work and WHY they work the way they do. The age of technology can baffle us now and again, but it’s exciting that answers are out there–research is available to us, we don’t have to live in ignorance. As kids often say–science is cool. Yes it is.

Tyson enjoys linking science to comedy. “…interest (in science) has been undercapitalized because we somehow as a culture don’t think that science is fun or entertaining or a source of comedy. There’s a bias. And I think the universe is a hilarious place.”

He goes on to describe what would happen to a person if he fell into a black hole. “You get stretched and ripped apart–it’s not so much hilarious as entertaining. If I had to pick one way to die, that’s how I’d want to go. It’s far more interesting than getting hit by a bus.”

Maybe Tyson glibly says this to be somewhat outrageous and because there is little fear that this can happen to him. But he certainly approaches such information with wit and irony. Science is intellectually cool.

A recent major article in TIME Magazine, called THE IDEA FACTORY, (no link available) reflects how the man and woman in the street are using science to power their careers and to embolden their bank accounts. All sorts of inventions are listed: a baby-formula dispenser, a power strip that bends, an LED bulb that can be controlled with an app and many more.

Science rises up in all of us when we get sick and want to be well–fast. We can read and inform ourselves. It wasn’t always this way. The availability of information on the internet and just the openness of desiring to understand and accept change can move us forward as a planet, as a people.

In that process it’s better to say, though I don’t have a degree in science, I can educate myself, I can read and discover. I can become science-informed. There are no excuses.

We need to honor and love our planet. If the mention of climate change is presented–better to read and get informed than to say I’m not a scientist! Because you are–do you accept gravity? Would you take your sick child to the doctor or wave incense over them? Would you insist on walking everywhere or accept airplanes, cars and whatever!

We are all living with the benefits of science and that assumes that we believe in it–we accept it.

Tyson follows Carl Sagan, his mentor from the age of seventeen. The words below are Sagan’s and they underline the importance of our accepting science and helping our planet.

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering…every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. …The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. ..

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

I'm Not a Scientist. Oh Yes You Are!

Sagan’s pale blue dot.








Photos: Little Red Elf, Flickr, and Wallpaperswide.com

P.S. My collection of stories, A MOTHER’S TIME CAPSULE, available in many stores and formats at www.elizabethahavey.com