Sunday, October 25, 2015

Science is Cool Now

The movie The Martian has a line that made me laugh. Matt Damon is facing death as Robinson Crusoe on mars, and he says to his video log: "I’m going to have to science the shit out of this."

Is that what people think Science is now? That's fine if it is. I don't mind. It's just new to me. Science hasn't always been something you could "do the shit out of". Is an appreciation for science and cleverness mainstream now? Do people sit around thinking "Boy, I sure love technology and by extension the people who make it. Science is cool!"?

Science is a lot more than just being clever. In fact, most real work, the kind that leads to new invention, new predictive theories, etc. is kind of plodding and boring. This kind of work takes patience, stubbornness, diligence, obsession. Have you ever read the book "Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin? That's not even the full title. Back then scientists used hardcore titles like "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life". Just read that title. It's serious. It doesn't care about catching your attention. It's just going to lay it out there, all tight and formal. It's not trying to sell copies. If you don't want to read it, fine. You weren't hardcore enough anyway. The content of the book doesn't let up in style or verbosity either. I gave up about half-way through after a few dozen pages describing the similarities and differences between a few bushes in excruciatingly minute detail. I quit reading, but not before I developed a deep respect for the amount of work it must have taken.

You should always read the classics if only because no one else does and to catch people on their bullshit. I was once talking with a man who described "Origin of Species" as "beautiful and elegant".
Obviously, this person had never actually read the book and only vaguely knew it was supposed to be important.