Last year, my eight year old daughter was asked by a friend what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her response both shocked me and also made me the proudest dad in the world. She could have answered anything, president or princess, ballerina or Batman. Heck, when I was her age I wanted to be a dinosaur astronaut (at the same time). Of all the professions a young mind could imagine, she said she wanted to grow up to be a scientist. When pressed as to why, she said “I want to discover stuff. There’s a lot of stuff that we don’t know.” This simple moment reminded me of a simple truth: we, all of us… you, me, Charlie Sheen… we all once, long ago, looked at science with a child’s sense of awe. Put another way, science was cool.
Somewhere along the way, probably between the point where we are asked to memorize the periodic table and learn the name of every bone in the human body, we lose that child-like sense of awe, and start viewing science as more of a chore. Science is not the process of memorizing facts. Science is not the process of searching for eternal truths. Science is the process of asking questions, which lead to more questions, and more questions, and even more questions. Everyone knows a young child that spends every waking moment asking “Why?” Why do I have to go to bed? Why do we sleep? Why do I blink? Why do I have to pee in the middle of the night? While some of these kids are without a doubt asking questions simply to annoy you, most are genuinely curious and are trying to understand the world around them. In other words, for them science is cool.
Most of us are so caught up in our lives, jobs, kids, bills, Miami Heat winning streaks, and NFL free agency that we never pause, look around and ask “why”. We have lost our sense of awe. Every day we pick up a welding torch we are actually picking up thousands of years of scientific advancement. This technology we take for granted consistently produces temperatures that are hotter than the surface of the sun (yes the sun), produces the full spectrum of ultra violet radiation, and functions as a controlled lightning bolt that we can hold in our hands. Way cool. The goal for science Fridays is to remind us all that science is cool. Our hope is that this simple reminder will awaken that child inside all of us, and inspire you to ask “why”.
One of my personal missions is to increase the quantity and quality of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education in welding programs throughout the country. I truly believe that without a scientifically literate workforce, we, as an industry, will not be prepared to meet the challenges of rapidly evolving technology or the new global economy. I may not be able to teach everyone the science needed to succeed in 21st century jobs, but I can try to accomplish a simple goal: reminding us all that science can be fun. Come back next Friday, and every Friday thereafter and I will share with you the mind blowing world of science.
Some of you may still think that this is not for you, but consider this example: the metals we join with welding (pick any metal), look and feel solid. We can hold it and feel its texture, weight, and dimensions. We can see the color of the metal and identify its general shape. But that piece of metal that seems much more solid than the oxygen we breathe or the water we drink is made up of 99.99% empty space. That’s right… empty space. Actually, everything around you, including the computer, phone, or tablet you are using to read this blog post is almost entirely made of empty space.
Don’t believe me? Come back next Friday…