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Feb 13 2009

Why Are We Scientists?

Ambivalent Academic has an interesting post up in which she discusses the details of her ambivalent–love/hate–relationship to science. One of the things she loves about science is the “pure pursuit of truth/knowledge/information”:

Science, in it’s purest form, is a way of knowing. There are other ways to approach what we do not understand about life, the universe, whathaveyou. They also have value. But science is somewhat unique in that it precludes a particular background or set of beliefs. It requires only the ability to observe, to ask questions, and to design and conduct tests that determine the answer to those questions within the rules of logic.

While a common stereotype of scientists is of unemotional nerds with clipboards and thick glasses, AA points out that scientists are, by necessity, driven by passion:

I don’t think that fame and fortune are primary motivators for people who go into academic science. I think it’s a passion for discovery, the chance to do something that no one has done before, the pursuit of truth using a set of rules that is universally inclusive of anyone who wants to join the game.

One of my most vivid memories of grad school was late one night in the microscope room. I had been working feverishly for months to try to develop a reagent that would allow me to visualize in tissue a protein I had discovered. I peered into the scope, saw my protein in bright fluorescent color for the first time and exclaimed “Holy fucking fuck!!!!”

It was totes awesome!!!! I went running around the building trying to find someone to share the thrill with, and ended up dragging the janitor–a buddy of mine–into the room and forced him to look in the scope. That feeling is what we are all chasing.

6 comments

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  1. 1
    scicurious

    I have been known to graph some GORGEOUS data, and when I see how beautiful it is, start dancing around the room singing “i’m a scientist, it’s your birthday, i’m a scientist”. The lab accepts this without question.

  2. 2
    whoever

    True.
    Very true.

  3. 3
    Alex Palazzo

    Yeah, it’s a drug. I just wish that the high would last longer.

  4. 4
    Physiogroupie IV

    That feeling is probably the only thing keeping me in science these days.

  5. 5
    Matt Wedel

    Totally agree on chasing discovery energy. By coincidence, I just blogged about it a little last week.

    Objectively, then, I am a junkie chasing a fix. It just happens to be a fix that society values at some level. Convenient for me!

  6. 6
    mudphudder

    I’m a scientist because I’m a glutton for punishment.
    BRING ON THE PAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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