March 20, 2009
How much do I really appreciate what Science is !! [A question I asked in my mind]
I have always found this sort of out of the circle thinking a favorite pastime. As far as I can recall into my mind I see this as a conscious effort to process what I learn in a more or less compulsive way built into my thinking. And as much as I can imagine I developed this as a very young student.
To this date when I have had pretty solid background in experimental science through painstaking days and nights of thinking through methods and implementing them to extract some good looking interesting plots to being a pretty enthusiastic graduate student slogging through bunches of home works to understand basic concepts, I have carried a good deal of passion in thinking about what I have learned and what I haven’t.
My thinking has matured considerably giving rise to rejection of plain thoughts. In a way I have formed a judgment of my own to discriminate or rather to ask more and more questions in trying to circumvent pretty simple headed questions but nevertheless bothersome as well.
This then to my mind is a good definition of science. The most fundamental thing we as a bunch of scientists do is we ask ourselves numerous questions, some of value, some out of plain curiosity. And in forming a regular quest to seriously associate ourselves to such otherwise passionate tinkering of the brain forms a solid foundation of science of any age. A question is not a loud out, one time burst, of acoustic power, its rather a lingering process of mind. And they come in as complex as any of our regular brain activities.
But there is a natural limit to our way and ability to question, rather to extract meaningful answers out of such questions.
One for example is a correlation to our knowledge base, individualistic as well as collective. How much do we really know to be able to ask something that will lead us to more.
Another limit is in our natural abilities to continue to dig out more and more of knowledge without feeling slumped down and discouraged.
Yet another is a “value” of such fundamental quest complicatedly intertwined with everything else that we face in life, importance of graduate student’s scientific abilities, question of a job and joblessness, question of a tenure, question of acceptability, question of priorities, question of significance and so on.
This then gives rise to an “efficiency” at which we can ask meaningful questions and this is closely related to science itself, if one appreciates the fact that Science is a body of knowledge with a sustainable power channeling. When efficiency fails the power channels get voided. This in turn leads us to require ourselves to ask only those questions that conserve our efficiency.
Allowing validity of such robust thinking are then quintessential to a “successful” story of Science. Science is an evolution of our fundamental quest and queries that almost constantly leads us in ways of discovery or in the least of it a sustainability of our quest to explore.
How is then science related to Nature? Why we have explored so much of the physical nature of our Universe? Was it an easy sailing exploring such aspects or we just happened to dig out that which occurred to us.
I am certainly not hinting towards an intellectual force or design pulling us in one direction so that human civilization will meet the fate its destiny maker has designed it to. It is certainly related to what the human community has amassed in its entire history and its easy to accumulate more in the lines of history.
Another aspect of the highest standard of science is to formulate what we gain as knowledge in terms mathematical equations and numbers, at-least as far, as the instances of Physical Sciences are raised.
Some concepts of Physics are pretty intuitive in nature and could have been done away without much complex formulations. One idea would have sufficed to solve a gamut of physical problems. Is the only reason behind this was to be able to solve complex problems by means of a computation system so as to get more precise results and more efficient, time-saving answers??
A definite advantage is to have an answer that’s unifyingly valid in a wide spectrum of physical phenomena and intuitive reasoning wouldn’t be sufficient to provide a manifest evidence.
Yet another advantage is the natural bridge between Science and Technology impossible without a mathematical formulation of our knowledge.
How much is then Technology a good precursor to effective science?
In the last one month I have met a few very enthusiastic guys who kept our discussions about Physics and Science very lively and interesting, sprout with challenging questions about the issues any professional scientist is bound to answer.
I never had seen such an enthusiastic quest from practitioners of science itself. These folks are far off from a professional science curricula having formed their interest and queries just from what they know from their pre-university training.
Few of the discussions ranged over the questions of Black-holes, Big-Bang and Large Hadron Colliders. But on one instance one of them saw me to a satisfactory exchange of ideas and questions. He posed a serious notion of how much Technology has boosted the contents of science.
While there is no second opinion about the efficacy of Technology in modern day science I differed on a particular point. I stated it is questionable to be able to say that Technology alone has resulted in a fast paced development of science in a way inherent to Technology.
Because science is a matter of intellectual interpretation and intellectual growth of knowledge with or without present day technology. The modern day Science counts its day from the times of Galileo and the technology that Galileo enjoyed is much less powerful than the technology of today.
But Galileo [and not anyone before that] has produced scientific treatises, discoveries and scientific insights that not many can produce today with a “million-fold” increase in Tech-power. Technical inventiveness in a way is inbuilt into his type of worldly genius and also today’s technology may wrongly interfere with the scientific thought process of such luminaries.
Also the advantage that Galileo enjoyed in those days were one of scientific communication. If you come to think of it scientific insights communicated at few MB/s can get overshadowed by the plethora of unscientific non-insights communicated at 10 GB-Ethernet and such non-insights may have a prime place at a prime value. In other words information war is not exclusive to cold war like regimes it also plagues in a natural way the efficacy of beautiful minds and beautiful communities.
Apart from the bridge that science enjoys with technology there is a very traditional partner science has got to deal with:
education, its perceived value and its status at any given time. With lack or surplus of knowledge, science creates for itself a need. Science is like a buffer that takes care of the output and lack of output of knowledge. And “education” has an assigned priority to create knowledge.
When the basis of education are prepared on faulty premises and promises, science doesn’t suffer exclusively. Through this buffer society suffers.
Like any social problem that science can not promise to solve, faulty education is one which doesn’t have a baby-sitter. Its much rather a social problem than a scientific one.
And then to envisage from my personal experience there is a widely disjoint separation layer between primary education and training in college, one between training at that level and what we effectively learn at University, one between that knowledge and professional level science and research and one between the ideals of science and state of affairs in Laboratory and University based research.