Science – the big idea that seems so far removed from the ordinary person – all begins with asking a question.
The vaccine for smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases on earth, was discovered by a small-town farmer who wondered why his milkmaids weren’t getting sick.
Like a seed, that little word ‘why?’ grows, and if you keep pulling on its threads and keep asking questions, eventually it will have sprouted into a fully grown idea, branching out and rewarding you with new ideas that you wouldn’t have imagined beforehand. That is science.
So, why do we have such an unfavourable view of science?
It’s like the world has gotten bored of it, decided that wondering about the world is too hard or too confusing. Science has been relegated to David Attenborough documentaries and dwindling classrooms.
It has also become assumed knowledge that science cannot coexist with art or religion, that they’re mutually exclusive. Yet there are legions of religious or creative people of science, like actors such as Natalie Portman who studies physics or famous TV scientist Dr Karl who is Jewish. Science has become segmented in the classroom, made into tedious and boring studies of constant numbers. But science, pure science, is asking why things happen, and there is no restriction on curiosity.
How do you start asking questions? The best way is to go out into the world and discover. Find somewhere without light pollution and watch the Perseids meteor shower. Start a garden. Get bits of wire and batteries and light bulbs and see what you can create. Be curious, and you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve. Find out what interests you and you’ll surprise yourself with your capacity to learn. There are thousands of simple, quick science experiments at your fingertips and how to do them is just a Google away.
We are all natural scientists. As children we ask ourselves: why is the sky blue? Why do we have five fingers? Why can birds fly? Start asking why, and become a scientist yourself.
“Pure science is asking why things happen, and there are no restrictions on curiosity.”
Katherine Oakland, JCU student, science and journalism