Well… here we are again, involved in discussion of one of the cardinal points influencing your present view or reality; the pursuit and study of a subject that should really be referred to as “The Way of Science”. If you are reading this article as a continuation from Part 1, well, splendid. It could be that the introduction of the fine art of Ärbitrating has not been lost on you. Or perhaps you are new to this thread, but in either case, the question remains unsatisfied.
Let us continue then with the reasoning that may help you to find solace in the commiseration of your peers, or perhaps an insight into the peculiar academic torment in which you presently find yourself embroiled.
There really is a lot of scope here for us to cover. Let’s return to those earlier points raised and see how we can address the greater question:
- Why did you decide to study the Sciences in the first place?
- What are your interests?
- What ideas do you have for the career you would like to follow?
- What do you consider to be the purpose of existence?
1. Why did you decide to study the Sciences in the first place?
MOTIVATION… a few thoughts should be considered here. Not many people that I’ve encountered in my academic career would ever say they found the Sciences easy going. It’s tough, and requires your full commitment to get through. The challenges will become greater the further you go, so if you’re having second thoughts it may be worthwhile re-considering your options.
Examine the factors that lead you to choose this field. There are, after all, many other strands of knowledge one could pursue. For a lot of us, it all started from seeing cool demonstrations in the lab, but more recently there have been brilliant shows in the media like Myth-busters or Bill Nye (“the Science guy” ☺)…
Did you wonder what was going on?
Did you feel a sense of excitement at the possibilities of what you saw?
Was there an experience of awe at all?
Perhaps you wanted to try the experiment yourself and see if you could create the same effect?
In my case, introduction to the subject was quite natural and common place. It was only after a few years at school, in fact, that I realised my childhood was somewhat unusual…
Retrospectively, I came to understand that I was blessed with a father who was something of an eccentric “back-yard Alchemist” blended with some of those stereotype “mad scientist” figures we know and love from popular literature. In my recollection, we were doing all manner of scientific things all the time, from trying to set up a DIY silver electrolysis project, to recovering the precious metal from industrial waste (that proved to be quite a lucrative operation in the end!), to experiments in pyrotechnics. We did it all!
Imagine then the disappointment when I eventually got to high school; just as in a computer game, I thought it was reasonable enough to have to “fight” through the lower levels, enduring the relentless, often tedious monotony of junior science, because waiting up ahead, once I’d “payed my dues” and earnt my place, would be all the “cool, interesting stuff”. How wrong I was!
…There were no smoke bombs, no improvised fireworks using homemade gunpowder formula, no solid fuel rockets. We didn’t make touch powder or even modest little explosions using flammable gas mixtures in pressurised plastic bottles…
ARGH! The profound disillusionment! And of course, as we live and learn about “Health and Safety regulations”, it turns out that no academic institution can adequately provide these experiences for the budding rebel Scientist. ☺
What I can say, however, is that having gone through the process, you are far better equipped to do the fun and interesting things you’ve seen than by blindly following YouTube tutorials.
Studying science will allow you to understand the principles, source the raw materials, improvise the apparatus and conduct all manner of “research” – in relative safety!
Just remember that as a developing scientist, you are expected to cultivate a responsible attitude, including concerns for the environment as well as the general well-being of those in the surrounding area. While a certain amount of “playful investigation into the principles of physics and rapid exothermic decompression” will generally be tolerated, you are going to be held accountable for your actions…
2. What are your interests?
Well, at first this question sounds like a “no-brainer”. I mean, you’re studying science because you are interested in the subject, right?
Surprisingly, many students I’ve worked with are enrolled in these courses for the wrong reasons.
For some, it is about honouring their family’s expectations. Others just do it because they can, even though they don’t relate to the subject. Then there are those who don’t know what else to study…
On the plus side, I will always say this:
Training at the hardest level possible equips you to deal well with any future challenges.
You might not go on to use the content, but the sheer force of willpower and mental stamina developed in this discipline will prepare you to excel in any other application.
Realistically though, it is going to take a lot of grit and determination from you to get through your course.
As the saying goes, “life is too short to drink bad coffee”.
If you are not “in it to win it”, then there is no dishonour in changing course. You are going to be putting in a considerable amount of effort to get through this undertaking. If you are just trying to get credits to progress academically, in many ways, you’re missing the point here.
Science is a vocation, a calling, a way of life. Even though you may not feel this all the time (like on those bleak late-night missions when assignments are due or you’re going over the countless pages of notes and past papers in preparation for an exam!). You are on a path that leads to your highest potential.
It may sound strange, but relish every challenge, every obstacle, every concept that stops you in your tracks. In being forced to revise your assumptions, review your knowledge and seek out solutions you are experiencing; these are the tests that are the real milestones of your progress. And it’s not like you’re in a vacuum. There are countless resources to consult and a large number of enthusiasts who will be glad to help a fellow scientist develop.
3. What ideas do you have for the career you would like to follow?
Looking back, you will probably find that your ideas and expectations are all based on your present view and understanding of the world. Largely this depends on your experience so far. In the sensible words of Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke: “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”
So, with the passing of years you will find that a better idea of what your interests are will develop. With growth, your capabilities will also expand. You will be exposed to new ideas, and possibilities that do not presently exist will become available. So, don’t worry if all you have at this stage is the vague idea that you want to continue with the study of science, but don’t have a clear career or occupation in mind.
The fact remains that you are always free to change your mind. Keep your options as wide as possible, especially in the early years. Studying the sciences is relevant to your life since they open many doors and will prepare you for the wide variety of options life has to offer!
4. What do you consider to be the purpose of existence?
CONCLUSION: Here this blog entry takes a full turn back to our starting question: Why is studying Science relevant to my life…?
Hopefully by this stage, we’ve established that you have an interest in science. You are a young, intelligent person with awesome potential and an open sky of possibilities above you. There are so many profoundly amazing discoveries waiting to be made, and it could very well be that someone like you, (if not actually you!) will make them.
Philosophical enquiry into the nature of existence generally precedes the more obvious questions about what the purpose of life is…
Either we take the view that:
- By a fantastically bizarre series of coincidences, pure energy has coalesced into lower vibrational frequencies, manifesting as the basic atoms from which all physical matter is constructed.
- The balanced complex of larger molecules gives rise to the potential for the reproduction of chemical systems, allowing for a template on which to develop the structures necessary for the evolution of living systems.
- Life is random, the nature of existence is circumstantial and our purpose in all this is largely irrelevant, since the universe is simply an expanding cycle of entropy-driven transformations…
- There must be something more to all this.
If you were artistically oriented, then your sense of purpose and fulfilment would come through other channels: movement, dance, sculpture, painting or simply scribbling lines of doggerel under the vain pretentions of being a poet.
But since you are reading this, well…you have felt that inner call that lead you to the Sciences. Never mind the fact that at times it seems difficult, or even impossible! In the study of what we know about the actual nature of reality, you will find your purpose and destiny.
For you to be asking “why is studying science relevant to my life?” would seem almost as ludicrous as a fish asking: “why must I learn about the tides and how to swim?”.
It may not yet be clear to you, but this is your medium.
Studying science is relevant to your life since you are always going to be a thinking person. Learning to use your intellect is how you are going to evolve and grow.
Keep a positive attitude, an open mind and never let your sense of curiosity be dampened by setbacks and tribulations. There will be many. Believe in the possible, but don’t be limited by it.
Imagination guided by diligent investigation can and will yield incredible results. So, don’t hold back. You can do this. ☺