SA Mines and Energy Journal : June 2009
JUNE/JULY 2009 SA MINES & ENERGY JOURNAL 41 When we consider the ubiquity of mobile phones, iPods and personal computers, and the staggering levels of communication and accessibility to information provided by the internet, it’s easy to see how science is woven into every aspect of our day-to-day lives. When we consider the state of the world, and identify looming challenges such as climate change, global pandemics, security threats and diminishing resources, we don’t hesitate to turn to science to assess the problems and find solutions. And, of course, in order to take advantage of the myriad opportunities hovering on the horizon, it is crucial that the public can understand scientific issues – there’s simply no other way that, as a society, we will be able to make informed decisions on a range of issues that will shape the future. These are the standard – and enormously important – reasons most of us would give in explaining why science matters, and I don’t disagree with any of them. But I do agree with physicist Brian Greene that there is a much more fundamental reason why science really matters: “Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner that’s precise, predictive and reliable – a transformation, for those lucky enough to experience it, that is empowering and emotional. “Itisawayoflife.Tobeable to think through and grasp explanations – for everything from why the sky is blue to how life formed on earth – is one of the most precious of human experiences.” As a practising geologist, I have been lucky enough to experience this for myself but I am continually disappointed to find that science is still widely viewed as merely a “difficult” subject one studies at school or an isolated body of largely obscure knowledge (practised by geeks) that occasionally shows up in the “real” world. In reality, science is the basis of hope, inspiration and enlightenment. As a parent, I have come to realise that all children begin life as unreserved, bold explorers of the unknown – as little scientists. Those of us who have discovered science as a way of life have a responsibility to nurture every child’s intrinsic scientific passion. And that is where I believe all organisations (and especially museums) which interact with, or are dependent upon, science have a crucial role to play. We must be innovative in spreading our enthusiasm, in sharing our “eureka moments”, and transporting our students “ beyond the stars” . Science needs to be taught to the young and communicated to the mature in a manner that captures this excitement. “ We must embark on a cultural shift that places science in its rightful place alongside music, art and literature as an indispensable part of what makes life worth living.” Professor Miller will be speaking at the 2009 Festival of Ideas – “ Pushing the limits” . The festival runs from July 9-12 in Adelaide. For more information, contact the Adelaide Festival Corporation on (08) 8216 4444 or visit www. adelaidefestivalofideas.com.au. EDUCATION Science isn’t an obscure subject just for “geeks”, writes Professor Suzanne Miller, Director of the South Australian Museum. Science matters!
April May 2009