Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving makes us introspective

Location: Home Base

The thought occurred to me as I see the posts of what people are thankful for, that scientists are frequently not thankful for their science. I heard a quote today on TV:

A: Your dad reminded me of why I got into science in the first place.
B: To solve crimes?
A: To figure things out in ridiculous ways

I identify with this, any self respecting scientist should.

We didn't get into this (or at least not a lot of us did) to save lives, or to cure cancer, or even to make the world safer, better or less polluted. Those are great reasons to use at parties, at home, or when we are trying to justify the hours, the mental anguish, the frustration at another experiment that you know in your heart SHOULD work, and doesn't, but it's not what it's really all about.

Maybe it's just me.

But I got into this because nothing is worse than not knowing.

I love to figure things out. I love to watch TV where people figure things out. My favorite thing in the world is watching a child understand a new concept. My second favorite thing is watching an adult learn something. My third favorite thing is when I figure something out.

I can't have an ego about it though, because there are things that I Just can't learn on my own. I need to know what those things are. I think I could very easily have washed out of science if I hadn't recognized that there were people who got something better than I did, and let them explain it to me. I think I'd probably be a better scientist if I had recognized that more often.

So, why is this a topic for thanksgiving? Well, mostly because I said so. But for those of you sticklers for lists, here goes:

The scientist abroad is thankful for inquisitiveness.

The S.A. is thankful for there still being science out there to be discovered.

The SA is NOT thankful for the fear of exploring those things because, sometimes, there's just no money in it.

In a perfect world SA would like to:

Discover whether all viruses come from the same original source.
Find out whether mitochondria are really the product of endosymbiosis, or if bacteria are a product of exosymbiosis.
Go ghost hunting, because those guys, and their cameras might still be faking for TV.
Find out the best way to gather and use energy.

If SA were a psychologist, dealing with those messy neurons, rather than messy, but more easily studied bacteria, the following questions would be of the most interest:

Why do neurons die? When are neurons created?
Will it ever be possible to create the Terminal Man?
(PS: SA used to be a fan of Michael Crichton, but deep down, don't you think he hated and feared technology?)
What the hell is up with this sleep stuff?
Why does non-procreative sex make us happy?

If SA were an engineer, the world would probably collapse in on itself.

If SA were an artist... Have you ever heard of Dadaism?


In short, SA is thankful that the human race came up with a methodology to interpret the reactions of the universe in such a way as to learn from it. Not only because it makes Rock Band possible, but because in science, I have found a way to learn something new.

Also, it does sound kind of cool to tell people that I'm a scientist, and i'm trying to save the world