always been fascinated by science since I was a kid and did my degree in Biochemistry. the plan was to become a Nobel winning scientist - the reality was I hated the tediousness and repetitive nature of lab work! so I ended up in pharma sales, then into the pathology sector where I spent a good few years before running a recruitment business with Mrs FB recruiting for the science and medical sector.
even now I still try to keep up with a broad base of sciences although many baffle me now!
I get a daily newsletter from this website below - you can choose what news to get. it’s a good way to keep up to date with what’s going on in science. New Scientist used to be another go to but now it’s owned by the Daily Mail owner, they can go stuff themselves.
I find the advances of science in the early and mid 20th century mind-blowing eg.
Splitting the atom
Understanding the double helix
Getting to the moon
It seems incredible that these things happened when they did, so far ahead of their time when you consider the state of technology. Can you imagine trying to explain these things to someone 100 years earlier? The molecular structure of DNA in 1853, or the physics of a moon landing in 1869? I am optimistic that the same human ingenuity will harness science to find solutions to the big issues that affect us today and in the future.
In my todo reading list I have some science books, along with politics etc etc.
My all time favourite university course was an OU course on Oceonography, and I once got in the global Top 100 on an online biochemistry mooc (University of Kyoto).
The beauty of science to me is how accepted knowledge constantly develops the more we challenge norms and accepted wisdom and push harder.
At the moment I have a buzz about ‘resonance’ but in the ‘if I were a trillionaire (inflation ’ ) mode I would likely be spending quite some time on a big boat with a lot of hard core science phd types doing stuff. For example what Triton have done with their Hadal exploration system excites me. Pity I don’t have the money, time, freedom etc to take that up a few steps.
Equally though I am perfectly happy being an armchair observer of science.
Keep questioning, keep pushing, laterally think on all your knowledge base areas, and don’t exclude eureka moments. One day you might get a moment of inspiration, that those scientists can use as a crib to crack into the problem and find a solution.
I can tell you, while rare, those eureka moments (which in my case include (1) an insight into one possible new way to predict a specific type of terrorist event, followed years later by (2) realising that it actually had a maths underpinning (but as with other related work I stopped it all years ago now)), hit you like a blinding light. Re the maths one I began belly laughing uncontrollably in the presence of others at Oxford University when I grasped it, all from reading a note in a maths book!
What I am trying to say iwaters, is question, think, reflect, and if you get a moment of inspiration publish it on the net. You will likely get ridiculed etc, but someone somewhere may be able to use your insight to take things further.
All the historic great scientists/alchemists (and often they were both) had a hard time in their day, but their work led to where we are today.
Now where is that gold bar? (That’s a joke for those who think alchemy is literally about turning lead into gold).
I originally started studying Chemistry with Computer Applications, which meant my first year I did Chemistry, Maths and Computing. They dropped the course so I had to choose Chemistry or Computing I decided to switch to a straight Computing Science.
It’s Einstein’s theories that stick out as the ultimate achievement. General and Special relativity are still correct and relevant a hundred years later. Probably the only major classical theory that is still mainstream and not been replaced. Mass/Energy equivalence (E=Mc2) still holds true. There is no substantive evidence that anything can travel faster than light. Although he didn’t believe in it at the time, but his work directly led to the theories of quantum mechanics.
And it was all done by him thinking shit up. No particle accelerators, no computers, no terabytes of data. Just a bloke doing some maths.
Blows my mind to think he was doing that in the time of Queen Victoria, pretty much.
Who would you crown champ in the lab?
I’m not sure but this article makes me want to nominate Cockcroft and Walton.
Or maybe just nominate the whole year:
“In April 1932 John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton split the atom for the first time, at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge in the UK. Only weeks earlier, James Chadwick, also in Cambridge, discovered the neutron. That same year, far away in California, Carl Anderson discovered the positron while working on cosmic rays. So 1932 was a veritable annus mirabilis in which experiments discovered, and worked with, nucleons; exploited Albert Einstein’s relativity and energy-mass equivalence principle; took advantage of the newly emerging quantum mechanics and its prediction of “tunnelling” through potential barriers; and even verified the existence of “antimatter” predicted by Paul Dirac’s relativistic quantum theory of the electron. It is hard to think of a more significant year in the annals of science.”
Tenously connected, I was hiking north of Geneva a couple of years ago and got lost in a forest. Came out in a large clearing near a weird steaming brick vent building surrounded by tall security fencing. Kind of felt like I shouldn’t be there, but there was noone around. Sign on the fence said CERN and when I checked the map later, I reckon it was directly over the large hadron collider. That felt cool.
Edit: whoops I need to go away and read about Rutherford, appareny dude’s in with a shot at the podium for splitting nitrogen several years earlier.
Edit#2: ah ok. So “splitting the atom” is an ambiguous term, chemical reactions do that. Splitting the nucleus is a better term & in 1918 Rutherford showed this can happen by bombarding nitrogen gas with naturally occuring alpha particles. The 1932 guys were the first to achieve it artificially.
Genuinely never expected to wander down this rabbit hole when waking up this morning, I was planning to go for a run
His earlier book “A Short History of Nearly Everything” is even better IMHO and covers most popular science in a few hundred pages.
I generally read a couple of sciency books a year although it varies and I’m probably a bit behind at the moment having been caught up in a couple of epic sci-fi trilogies.
I did read an excellent book about cancer last year - “The Emperor of all Maladies”
Last year’s other science book was about the state of agriculture in modern UK, so that doesn’t really count (but was very interesting and informative).
I listen to a couple of science podcasts too, although as that tends to be when commuting, I’ve fallen well behind during lockdown