Are You A Scientist?
SciWorks Radio is a production of 88.5 WFDD and SciWorks, the Science Center and Environmental Park of Forsyth County, located in Winston-Salem.
When you think of a Scientist, who comes to mind? Do you picture someone in the desert with their face to a dusty rock uncovering a dinosaur bone? Maybe you think of the mad-scientist, unhinged and laughing dramatically?
Or do you imagine a team in white lab coats worrying over some incomprehensible experiment involving a monkey and a test tube? Professional scientists are trained to understand the important scientific aspects of their field, but what about you? Are you or your children scientists? I spoke with Dr. Roger Cubicciotti, poet and president of NanoMedica, here in Winston Salem who gave an interesting perspective on what Science is.
My perception is that science is about curiosity. My grandfather would wander around the lemon tree in the backyard smoking Winstons and staring at the ground and when the family asked the question Papa what are you doing his answer was “I'm studying the ants”, because he was curious about your behavior. And while he was a trained scientist, a PhD, his real science was curiosity and then posing questions and answering them. Science is one process or methodology for understanding the world in which we live in. my opinion science is not about intelligence, intellectual capability or knowledge, but rather about process of thought that begins with curiosity. Science is about the process of asking a question, and then posing a hypothesis.
A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for something; an idea that needs to be tested before it can be considered a fact. For example, my hypothesis is that the moon is made of swiss cheese. I believe this because I can see it with my own eyes, however I cannot state it as fact because I haven’t yet found the proof. Most non-scientists call a hypothesis a theory, however in science a theory is a verifiable fact that can be repeatedly tested and proven. But you don’t need a PhD to have a hypothesis, nor do you need a doctorate to test a theory.
My first experience with science was when I was about six and I happened to throw some watermelon seeds in the backyard under the peach tree and miraculously by the end of the summer they were 22 pounds. And I was curious as to whether they were ripe. So I asked the question, “are the watermelons ripe?”, and I came up with a hypotheses which was yes they are ripe, and in order to test the hypothesis I established a methodology which was to take an apple-corer, take a core out of the watermelon check whether it was red or pink or green. And I was fascinated by that process of the seed becoming a huge Elephant-like fruit.
What piques your curiosity. You can form your own hypothesis by asking the question. Then take some time to find the answer. You might not know it, but you’re already a scientist.
I believe that everybody is a scientist in his own right. We are curious and we satisfy our curiosity by exploring the world. A musician is constantly searching the world for beautiful expressions in rhythm, in lead, in bass, in percussion. An artist is looking around at nature to express a perspective on what's real. A carpenter is a scientist in the sense of hypothesizing how to assemble this particular structure, and in some cases finds it doesn't work and has to pose a different hypothesis. Science at its core is not about discipline, intelligence, knowledge, intellectual capability or education. It’s more about commonsense. I believe that Thomas Jefferson stated that very clearly and in fact was more a scientist and most of us are. I also believe that science is the antithesis of hard. It's very easy, it's very fun, it's very satisfying, it's very gratifying, and it's well within the reach of every person in this universe.