As an engineering student, I haven’t really gotten to be enrolled in many classes that I’ve actually wanted to take. Actually scratch that– I haven’t gotten to take ANY classes that I’ve actually wanted to be in. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not complaining and I know I signed up for this but sometimes I can’t help but think that it would be a lot more interesting to take history or sociology instead of applied data analysis or differential equations. Even the one writing class I get to take has an unpleasant ring to it: Writing on Science and Society.
Science writing? Nothing in this whole entire world sounds duller than reading journal articles on scientific findings, except perhaps reading them and having to write about our reactions towards them. Every single one of my reactions would be to fall asleep and I’m doubtful that essays about my napping habits would be of any interest to anyone. I spent a few days fuming about this until I realized that there is so much more to science than dry scientific writing. Some of the most beautifully poignant quotes have come from brilliant scientific minds such as Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan (read some here and here), and one has only to glance at pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope to realize that many scientific phenomena are nothing short of masterful works of art. Although science is seldom considered to be of the same artistic magnitude of such things as painting, music, or literature, i would argue that the scientific process involves just as much creativity as any one of these disciplines.
The freedom of discovery that the scientific process empowers in the human race allows us to continually explore different facets of the human condition and provides just as much opportunity for enlightenment as the arts do. I would therefore argue that science is not something separate and opposite from the arts, but an art in and of itself and equal with other arts in terms of its ability to elevate the human spirit and just as necessary. People (myself included) frequently make the mistake of thinking that one must choose between being creative and being good at math or science. This way of thinking is part of the reason that our society as a whole is falling behind other countries in advanced science and mathematics. Children are far too often taught that science is boring which is one of the largest disservices that our country does towards its youth. I can admit that i occasionally even fall into that trap. Anyone who spends an entire day on a torturously difficult and deathly boring homework assignment runs the risk of losing the sight of the bigger picture– and we’ve all been there. Bridging the gap between science and the arts is possibly one of the most vital tasks that our country needs to focus on in the coming years. We need to move away from the dry science journals and find a way to present science to the population in a relatable and interesting manner, which is where it becomes necessary to be able to effectively write about the emotions that science invokes rather than just the facts. The universe is a complicated any mysterious place but there is no other feeling in the world like the realization that you are one step closer to understanding it.Yes, math is hard. No, research is not fun. But is it worth it? Absolutely.