It’s nearly 4 pm, on an absolute postcard perfect day. I’m in my car, parked at a tiny beach; one of a handful strewn along the Port River. Birds scamper on the sand, waves whisper past and the sound of distant traffic is like the pulsing murmur of an unborn child’s heartbeat through an ultrasound. Peace can be found in the most unlikely places sometimes.
In this frame of mind I’ve been thinking about science and it’s place in the lives of the world out there. I know where I fit in, and through a fairly brief but active time on Twitter I’ve discovered a host of others who care about various aspects of science. Scientists, science outreach folks, artists, explorers, collectors and wanderers. There’s a lot of conversation going on out there. Much of it is exciting and engrossing, some of it can shorten your life one stupid statement at a time.
Where did this start for people? I got curious, after reading a great article in Lateral Magazine. It was the observation of the author that dinosaurs and outer space seem to be two of the main “gateway drugs” leading people into science. I can vouch for both: many of my earliest memories centre around toy dinosaurs, books my dad got for me and the awe inspiring spectacle that was Star Wars, 1979. However, I would have to say that for me it was dinosaurs that led the charge. Dinosaurs taught me to read. After all, if you want to understand something you find a way to work it out. My earliest books were dinosaur books. Of course, and as seems to be the case, this love affair grew and evolved. I got older, and I found myself interested in just about everything in the animal Kingdom, but dinosaurs were the key to this Kingdom. What about you?
So. We’ve all moved on from toys and daydreams…
(Of course we haven’t! )
Back to Twitter. I decided to run a little poll, asking folks what it was that got them into science:
Not a huge turnout, to be sure, but you can see some common patterns making themselves apparent.
We Love Outer Space!
Duh!! Who doesn’t. We are either drawn to the distant past or the future- immediate or not. Several comments reflected this predilection for the stars, but nature did pretty well also;
“Bug People” seem to be really passionate and popped up a lot in elaborating further on their “gateway drugs”. Even fictional creatures, such as the arthropod-like xenomorph in the “Alien” franchise played a bit part in responses.
Yes, stories are definitely important in the “recruitment” of budding scientists. The stories we tell ourselves: daydreams, childhood play as well as books and movies.
While bugs and nature had the loudest voice among respondents Outer Space was the runaway winner. Again it’s hard not to disentangle a childhood fascination with the heavens from the landscape of Sci Fi that dominated mine (and many others) imaginations as children.
Excellent responses all, and it’s hard to disagree with any of them.
One thing that stood out was a response regarding coming into science later in life. This was an interesting point for me. Many of you reading this most likely are interested in science and related fields. Is it fair to say that most of you acquired a taste for it early in life? Another poll seemed to reflect this, although the response was extremely minimal:
Were you bitten by the science bug early? Were you grown up, working in some completely unrelated field (as I still do), before you took that left turn? It would be interesting to examine this further. Please leave some details on your own experience with science if you wish. It would make a great future post!
Thanks for reading! Drop by sometime!