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Science is Fantastic

November 30, 2011

If you’ve only known me for the past five years or so, or even if you’ve known me for longer, you would probably not think of me as someone who pursues scientific knowledge, perhaps not even at the popular level. It is true that for the past few years, my studies have been in the areas of history, law, philosophy, and political science and these areas today are very far and differentiated from the natural and physical sciences. The last time I excelled in a science class was junior year of high school when I took AP Biology and enjoyed narrating and illustrating biological processes. I relished the last FRQ in that year’s test which asked for a functional and molecular explanation of the pancreas.

What science classes I took after that high point in my scientific academic career were undistinguished and often fraught with tension because of my poor understanding and use of that fundamental language of science: calculus. Senior year Honors Physics. 2nd year, the physical sciences half of the Natural Sciences sequence (because I was aware enough of my intellectual failings to drop Astronomy and Astrophysics after the first class). 3rd year, a very inadequate Bio topics course that wasn’t even as rigorous as my freshman year Honors Biology course in high school although I did pick up my first understanding of how beer is made. The bottom line is, science and I have been growing apart for a long time. We’re like two people who were friends and then we went off to do other things and whenever someone brings the other person up in conversation, I go, “oh yeah, so-and-so is great, I to see him/her all the time,” but then I never actually follow up with the person in question.

I watched this interview tonight by Stephen Colbert of Neil DeGrasse Tyson and it is fantastic. Colbert is just as sharp and attentive out of character as he is in character and Tyson is a live wire of enthusiasm. Tyson makes me want to read astrophysics papers and go to the planetarium. Set aside your Facebook creeping for a night and tune in:


ADDENDUM: This is not the first time that I’ve heard about how we are all the stuff that stars are made of/used to be made of some the elements are being ejected in supernovae but I think the idea is one of the most romantic in science.

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