In today’s VERITAS we consider a very serious issue: the importance of fun in Science. We seem to think that Science is a very serious affair and is done by serious people who do not have a sense of humour. Lets examine these thoughts a little deeper. What is the origin of Science? Is it not an effort that has its foundations in curiosity. And who is most associated with curiosity? A child!
So Science arises from a childlike curiosity. So why should we consider Science to be a dull boring thing. Science is the deepest fun that a person can have and it recreates the fun of discovery that we all feel when we were little.
Now give me one good reason why a person who is curious about electrons more of a scientist than a person who experiments and wonders about how long a biscuit can be dipped in tea so that it absorbs the maximum tea but does not break!!! In my opinion both are scientists as long as their aim is to honestly satisfy their OWN curiosity!
However this world is crazy! It tends to recognize people who are curious about the electron and laugh at people who worry about biscuits and tea etc.
The Ignobel prizes are an attempt to reward people who try and do crazy science that other people try to stay away from.
Each year 10 IgNobel prizes are awarded in different fields.
Eor example, Len Fisher got the Ignobel prize in Physics for finding a optimal way to dip biscuits in tea. Harold Hillman got a prize for a report on how much pain different methods of execution might cause on subjects.
This prize does not mean that the winners do wrong research. The research that wins this prize must be based on sound scientific principles.
Arnd Leike of the University of Munich showed mathematically that beer froth obeys the law of mathematical decay and won the Physics prize in 2002. This work was mathematicallly sound.
The British Standards Institute got the 1999 Literature prize for its 6 page specification( BS-6008) of the proper way to make a cup of tea.
Most papers written by these scientists are published in real research journals. For example the 2003 prize for medicine went to a research article published in the proceedings of the royal academy of sciences. This paper showed that the size of some areas in the brain of London taxi drivers is larger than normal. This is because the areas needed for navigation through the tricky roads in london were more developed.
Some people who win these prizes are very respected scientists. For example Michael Berry the discoverer of the Berry Phase in Physics is a highly regarded Physicist and he won the Ignobel for his experiments on the magnetic levitation of non magnetic things( frogs, pizzas, sumo wrestlers).
These prizes are presented at a function at Harvard University and sponsored by the journal “Annals of Improbable research”. The aim is to award science that first makes you laugh and then makes you think.
Friends, there is so much around us that we can discover. Lets not be bogged down by complicated books and complex equations. These books and equations are mere tools. But the thing that we want to discover is the beautiful and wonderful nature. When we decide to discover these tools will become easy. The important thing is to go back and answer the questions that interest us and not bother about what interests others.
“When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.” –Walt Whitman
Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time and regulate the Sun;