Monday, November 10, 2008

Science as Fiction

When I first learned that a high school kid won a national science fair for isolating bacteria from soil that is able to readily decompose the common plastic bag, I have to admit one of my first emotions I felt was anger.

I was angry that the solution to degrading plastic was just underfoot for all this time. The solution was found using dirt, yeast and some “household chemicals”. It makes me wonder, did Big Chemistry even *try* to find a solution to the problem of plastic that just won’t go away?

I have only performed science once in my life and that was also for the science fair. (For my grade five science fair project, I conducted an experiment to see if different type of waters - tap water, water from Lake Huron, snow water - created different amounts of soap bubbles. I have never been a model of ambition). For all the other years of work dedicated towards to culmination of my honours undergraduate H. Sc. degree, I have only *studied* science. I’ve read about many, many experiments in university – and in various ‘labs’ I have had to re-enact them. But other than that lone moment in grade five, I have never been asked to ask a question and use the scientific method to try to answer it.

You can go to school and study music, theatre, history or literature and when you graduate, work in some unrelated field but still engage in the art that you once studied as an amateur, local, or community artist. But for most science graduates, if don’t end up working in the sciences, you just end up being a member of the studio audience. If you still have an interest in science after years of being beaten up with textbooks, you might watch The Discovery Channel on TV or listening to Quirks and Quarks on the radio. And if you are way keen, you might have a subscription to Scientific American.

But reading about science isn’t going to change a damn thing.

So instead, I hope to the channel the spirit of my last post. I am going to try to start doing science. That being said, this is going to be very difficult for me as I have to admit that I am a classic reader/writer learner. I live through words. My body is a just a mechanism to take my brain to meetings. I have largely lost the ability to learn with my hands.

And yet, I want to participate in what I think is going to be a growing movement: crowdsourcing + science. I’m not sure where I’m going to start. Perhaps The Great Canadian Garlic Collection? WormWatch?

Perhaps its time to host my own science fair.

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