Looking Beyond the Textbook: Science in Everyday Life
Too many people think of science as this boring subject that they once had to take in school. Perhaps they did well, or perhaps they did poorly, but all that accompanies the idea of science and the study of the world is a sense of irritation and passivity. The truth is that science extends far beyond the textbook and the classroom, and it is worth looking at the science of the world around you!
Do you have a dog? If so, you are looking at the direct descendent of the first wolves that came out of the dark and formed tentative alliances with humans. Each dog, from spoiled Dalmatian to happy Pitbull to tiny Chihuahua at some point in its ancestry had a wolf that was a little drawn to humans, a little interested in being fed, and played with, and loved.
Every day, we hear words like oil-shortage and rising gas prices, but where do oil and its byproduct gasoline come from? Oil is something that scientists believe came from long dead organisms, the remains of which have been compressed, compacted and heated over a long period of time. Over hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years, oil is created mostly from small plants and tiny marine animals.
When people say that something is dull, they compare it to watching paint dry. As a matter of fact, the mechanism by which paint is deposited on a wall is surprisingly fascinating! Paint is a mixture of water, fixative and pigment. The water makes the paint fluid, the pigment gives paint its color, and the fixative holds it to the wall. The paint is applied, and as time goes on, the water leaches back into the air, leaving behind only the pigment and the fixative.
If you have ever wanted to look and see the intersection of many different branches of science, look no further than ice cream! Ice cream is derived from milk, something that we would never have if we had not domesticated cattle tens of thousands of years ago. The science of converting milk to ice cream involves the creation of an emulsion, that is, the combination of two ingredients that would otherwise separate, but when a third agent is added, will instead blend. On top of that, ice cream also represents the technology that went into creating refrigeration, something that was seen as something of a miracle just 100 years ago.
There’s a general idea that when you are looking at stars, you are looking at the shed light from hundreds or thousands of years ago. The truth is that while there are many stars that are quite old or even dead, there are stars that are only a few light years away, where a light year is the distance light travels in a year. Sometimes, the light that you are looking at is only between four and ten years old. That’s still quite a distance, but understanding this can make the universe seem just a little smaller in general.
Whether you are looking to reawaken an interest in the natural world, or you are thinking about helping a child discover his or her true passion, wake up and pay attention to the science that exists in the air you breathe!