Here is something you may not know about me: I really like science.
Here is another thing you may not know: I am not very good at science.
At least, not at normal science. School science. Hand me a textbook and I’ll be asleep in, like, two seconds. This is because A) I don’t like most textbooks and B) because I’m not that into science.
I like dabbling in science.
Last week I read What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe. (You may know him as the author of the online comic xkcd.) I don’t read much nonfiction, but I gave this book a rating of four out of five stars because, well, it’s brilliant.
It’s hilarious and informative and ILLUSTRATED. With STICK FIGURES. In What If?, Munroe answers questions as mundane as, “What would happen if the moon went away?” and as weird as, “From what height would you need to drop a steak to ensure it was cooked by the time it reached the ground?”
(And my personal favorite: “If you saved a whole life’s worth of kissing and used all that suction power on one single kiss, how much suction force would that single kiss have?” YOU COULD PROBABLY SUCK SOMEONE’S FACE OFF IS THAT NOT THE COOLEST THING EVER?!)
This is pretty typical of my science adventures (as I’ve suddenly decided to call them). I try something here, then another thing there, and so on and so forth. I love science non-textbooks – I enjoyed flipping through The Physics of Star Trek by Lawrence M. Krauss and Joy Hakim’s The Story of Science series is on my to-read list. I love science museums. I love watching Cosmos (either version) even if I do make fun of Carl Sagan’s hair. I wanted to be either an astronaut or a paleontologist when I was a little girl. SCIENCE IS COOL.
But I’m not hardcore about it or anything. I don’t want to be a scientist when I grow up. It’s not something I intend to devote my entire life to. It’s just a side interest. I can be quite enthusiastic about it – for heaven’s sake, I was part of a girls’ STEM organization back in middle school (and got to meet an astronaut as a result!) – but though it’s a thing I like, it’s not my THING. If you know what I mean.
I dabble in it. I find weird books about it. I like to approach it from a historical perspective – this makes a lot of sense, considering that history is one of my favorite subjects. (It’s a story! Literally! HiSTORY.) I love biographies and whatnot about scientists.
And while I think this is partially due to, well, cool science stuff, but I also like historical science factoids because I really admire those people. As I said above, I’m not that great at science. (Biology and even a bit of chemistry are fun, but physics? Pffft. Forget it. It’s the only class I’ve ever gotten a C in.) So, somewhere along the line, this turned into “gosh I really admire scientists because I think this stuff is cool and I’m not that good at it but THEY ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND THIS STUFF OMG WOW.”
That doesn’t really surprise me. I may be a very creative, artsy type of person but half my family (my mom and brother) are MEGA SCIENCE/MATH NERDS. Mom has, like, twenty math and science books. They fill an entire bookshelf. So it’s not all that surprising that I ended up impressed by scientists, because my “thing” is writing and I need like fifteen minutes to do the kind of physics problem that my mom (or Quentin) can do in one or two.
Sometimes I feel kind of guilty about this, though. I mean, I LOVE LOVE LOVE doing experiments and some of my biggest role models are scientists (Galileo, Charles Darwin, Sally Ride). But science just isn’t something I want a CAREER in – the closest I ever want to get to science in my future jobs involves writing YA science fiction.
And there’s a big movement to get more girls and women interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mentoring) careers. I’m hyper-aware of this because A) as mentioned above, I used to be in a girls’ STEM club, B) my mom cares a lot about this issue and thinks lady scientists such as Rosalind Franklin are underappreciated, and C) I’m a feminist, so equality in various career fields is important to me.
And here I am, the girl who is like WHOA DINOSAURS and OOH WHAT’S THE REAL-LIFE SCIENCE BEHIND THAT SCIENCE-FICTION FILM and OMG THIS SCIENCE BOOK IS ILLUSTRATED WITH CARTOONS… but my interest is limited and I don’t want to be a scientist. And sometimes that makes me feel weird. But it’s just not something in which I want to invest my future; I’d rather write and become a photojournalist and stuff. So I continue to dabble in science.
P.S. This post was meant to be the introduction for an essay-thingy about some scientists I admire. However, by the time I felt I’d made my point well, it was already over eight hundred words. So I’m just publishing this on its own instead. Keep an eye out for the follow-up post; I hope to write it sometime later this month!