Science is a Way Of Life — Brian Greene, 6/1/2008

TOPIC: Science (general)

Here's a nice New York Times op-ed piece by Brian Greene (6/1/2008), author of The Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Elegant Universe.

After acknowledging the standard reasons cited for "why science matters," such as the fact that science is "woven into the fabric of our day-to-day activities … affects the quality of our lives" and is critical for problem-solving and making informed decisions, Greene continues:

But here’s the thing. The reason science really matters runs deeper still. Science is a way of life. Science is a perspective. Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner that’s precise, predictive and reliable — a transformation, for those lucky enough to experience it, that is empowering and emotional. To be able to think through and grasp explanations — for everything from why the sky is blue to how life formed on earth — not because they are declared dogma but rather because they reveal patterns confirmed by experiment and observation, is one of the most precious of human experiences.

Later in a paragraph I would like to send to all my students who complain that science sucks out all the mystery and wonder of the world, Greene points out that:

It’s one thing to go outside on a crisp, clear night and marvel at a sky full of stars. It’s another to marvel not only at the spectacle but to recognize that those stars are the result of exceedingly ordered conditions 13.7 billion years ago at the moment of the Big Bang. It’s another still to understand how those stars act as nuclear furnaces that supply the universe with carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, the raw material of life as we know it.

Read the whole editorial yourself. It's a short and worthwhile read. I hope more and more people eventually agree with Greene that "Science is the greatest of all adventure stories …"

Related References

Easter, R., Greene, B. R., Jackson, M. G., & Kabat, D. (2005). String windings in the early universe. Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, 2005(2). [doi: 10.1088/1475-7516/2005/02/009]

Greene, Brian 1999, original hardcover). The elegant universe: superstrings, hidden dimensions, and the quest for the ultimate theory. W. W. Norton & Company.

Greene, Brian (2004, original hardcover). The fabric of the cosmos: space, time, and the texture of reality. Knopf Publishing Group.

Greene, B., Schalm, K., Shiu, G., & van der Schaar, J. P. (2005). Decoupling in an expanding universe: backreaction barely constrains short distance effects in the cosmic microwave background. Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, 2005(2). [doi: 10.1088/1475-7516/2005/02/001]