I thought I had an original idea to write a post about my love of science, but Andrea, The Little Red Reviewer, beat me to it. But I’m still going to do it anyway!
Science is my cocaine. Very rarely, I come across an idea so astounding, so fascinating, so clever, so original, so unexpected, so new, so wonderful that my brain just goes all fizzy. And I keep inhaling more science in the hopes of recreating that experience. Off the top of my head, I can think of two occasions that this happened to me and once that I was able to induce that feeling in someone else. Let me share with you those moments so maybe you can understand why I love science so much.
Death of the Dinosaurs
The last time this happened to me was only a few years ago. I am a huge fan of Radiolab, so when they went on tour, Maria and I went with a few of my friends to see the show. Their first story was on the meteorite impact that probably killed the dinosaurs. An expert on impacts walks the hosts through the impact of the meteorite and its effects. Trust me, it’s WAY cooler than you think. Like, fire raining down from the sky everywhere on earth cool. I’d actually prefer you spend an hour of your time to watch so you can experience it rather than me trying (poorly and unsuccessfully) to recreate it.
While sitting in the live show, I was in such a state of shock at the realities of the aftermath of the impact that I lost track of what was happening onstage for like five minutes. The horror and wonder of it was … transcendental.
The One Where the Quantum Theory Shut a Motormouth Up
I was in the Boy Scouts for a long time, through high school and much of college. As there often is in any group of kids, there was a boy, we’ll call him Frank, who just never … stopped … talking. Ever. Until one time, I got him to shut up for like half an hour by blowing his mind … with SCIENCE!
I recall this day pretty well. We were wasting some time at summer camp, hanging out during our afternoon free time. He asked me to tell him something cool about science since he knew I loved science and he thought it was really boring. So, I decided to tell him about something I was just learning about at the time: the many worlds interpretation of quantum theory. The tl;dr version is that each moment might branch off into infinite other universes based on different outcomes of events. So, there’s a universe where Hitler didn’t kill himself and there’s a universe entirely identical to this one except a single blade of grass got bent slightly differently when a lawnmower passed over it, and there are universes in between. In the Schrödinger’s cat example, there’s a universe where the cat is alive and a different universe where the cat is dead.
This blew Frank’s top right off of his head. He sat quietly for about half an hour, working through the implications of this. It was a small miracle. I was able to stop him from talking longer than anyone else ever had and I did it with quantum physics.
Pre-Algebra Opens My Mind
You ever have one of those moments so ingrained in your mind that you can recall many more details than you otherwise would? This particular memory comes from my middle school pre-algebra class and is the first time I recall having my mind blown open by science. I remember that I was sitting in the second seat from the front of either the second or third row away from the window. I remember my teacher telling us that she was introducing us to a completely new concept. We’d spent a ton of time learning other pre-algebra topics like factoring, order of operations and other stuff like that.
That’s when she wrote a big “x” on the board. And said that was a number. What number, we didn’t know. But it represented a number. It was called a “variable”, and it could be used in equations to represent numbers we didn’t know. And just like that, all the math I had learned in my life up until that point suddenly clicked into place. We had been learning all this stuff seemingly pointlessly. But if we were able to use variables in the equations, just imagine the endless possibilities math could introduce.
Imagine that you lived in one room all your life. Then, one day, someone removed a wall, revealing a much larger world outside that room. That’s what it felt like. I realized that there was so much more than I had seen before. And I was hooked.