The Incredible Coolness of Science

So right now I am working on a grant application for the NSF GRFP. It funds the first 3 years of graduate education, and will pay me better than grad school pays me (slightly). And it's also prestigious and would help my general career trajectory and open up a lot of new resources for me. Because of course, what better to do than work on a grant proposal for the NSF when the government is shut down (and therefore it is impossible to actually submit the grant). So while working on this grant, and specifically the outreach part, I started thinking a lot about science education. Because guys, it's really important. And anyway, while working on it, I came up with a whole bunch of extra stuff that didn't really fit in my application. 

So I'm going to share it here.

And also because this is a nice happy switch from some of the other stuff.


...But I think it is important that people have a basic scientific, (and specifically biological) base of knowledge. So many world issues are based on scientific understanding. See: global warming “debate”. People really should have a basic concept of the scientific method. (It’s also just a useful thing to know! I use it all the time in so many non-scientific circumstances.)

 Furthermore, a basic idea of scientific concepts and biological concepts I believe is important in having the ability to properly make your own medical decisions. In deciding whether or not to take medications, it is helpful to understand why they work. It's a good idea to have a general sense of where the various organs are in your body.

 But also, science is absolutely amazing and I think it is just horrifically sad that some people never have to opportunity to see the full beauty and complexity in life. The minute details of a cell. The hundreds and thousands of processes that are going on at any given time.

 Sometimes I stare at my hands in wonder. Because there are thousands of cells there. And each cell has so much machinery moving around. You have cellular respiration. Vaculuar transport. Do you know how many molecules are involved? Did you know that clathrin can self-assemble into cages.The cytoskeleton is constantly adding and deleting and growing and changing. There are thousands of processes going on even before you consider cell-cell interaction. The amazing organization of cells into tissues. How cells specialize into tubes and hearts and organs and blood and neurons.

And they all contain the exact same information.

 It is just so ridiculously amazing to think about what goes into deciding to move your finger. Multiple muscle movements coordinated. Electrical impulses released. Calcium flooding the sarcomeres. The myofibrils contracting. The actin and myosin interactions. And there is so much known about the molecules involved. And that is just at the muscle level.

Not even looking at the neural impulses. The processes involved in making a thought.

Oh my goodness guys, what even is a THOUGHT!

And that's just humans.

Did you know that virus particles can spontaneously combine if you dissemble them? (And that they look like alien spaceships?)

Did you know that there are simple animals that can self assemble if you dissociate all the cells? The cells all know how to get back together. All these cells have the same genetic information.

Did you know there is a bug who has legs that work basically the same as gears?

Did you know that scientists have EVERY CELL DIVISION mapped out in C. elegans? They know exactly what happens when and how each of the 959 cells in the body are made. And they know how many cells are in the body.


AND even though there is so much we know is going on, there’s even more to learn. There’s just this incredible vastness of potential that exists there. These ideas and theories and processes that are yet to be discovered. There are so many possibilities.

And this is just a small tiny fragment of biology. You have the chemistry and physics thrown in there and you can look even smaller. Thinking about what each individual molecule is doing. Knowing why your desk acts the way it does. Understanding the world. (And the beauty of math, but people have a tendency not to see that.)

The world is so beautiful and I just want everyone to be able to appreciate it.

Labels: , , ,