Fact or Fiction? (Answers revealed at end.)
1. Waking Sleepwalkers May Kill Them.
2. Living People Outnumber the Dead.
3. Vodka Keeps Cut Flowers Fresh.
The war between science and the liberal arts, physics and philosophy, mathematics and religion, seems like a centuries-old feud between two apparently irreconciliable opposites. I constantly hear humanities majors complain about the rigidity and cold methodology of science while science/engineering majors rant about the futility and subjectivity involved in essay-writing.
My own beloved university, UCLA, has its battle lines physically drawn across campus via Bruin Walk. North Campus or South Campus? That is the question. Sometimes it feels like we’re all picking sides and after we finish GE requirements, there’s no reason to enter the other side of campus at all. Perhaps this geographic division fosters the psychological mentality that we must pick one or the other. We are either suited to write or calculate, to theorize or experiment.
But I think this type of isolation and the rejection of the “other” is unnecessary and even harmful. In the end, no matter what we learn, we are essentially all in pursuit of that Holy Grail that is knowledge, albeit in different ways.
Anyways, I mention this because sometimes I get the feeling that people think I am uninterested in science or simply do not have the brain power to understand, but I can assure you that this is a vast misunderstanding. There are things that I find boring, unbelievable, or difficult to comprehend, but these limitations are not representative of my scientific curiosity or interest. My biggest regret in life will probably be not getting a chance to learn/know everything. I want to know things, as long as someone will bother to tell me.
It may sound strange, but I think my relationship to science is very much like that of many people’s relationship to literature. The casual reader shies away from Pope, Coleridge, and the ever-so-daunting Milton, but enjoys the occasional Harry Potter series or Stephen King novel. In my case, I find that I love learning random, strange, probably unuseful sciencey facts (about gomphothere turd, human decay, and what not), but find it hard to swallow that unique concoction of labs, calculations, and scantron tests that an actual major would require.
Given the fact that I deal with fiction, poetry, and language all day long every single quarter, recently I find myself turning to science as my leisurely refuge. I’ve developed quite a taste for science non-fiction as my before-bedtime-casual-reading-companion. Whereas I can barely pick up a novel without itching for a pencil to annotate, my relationship with science non-fiction is easy and simple. There are no rings, wedding bells or children in the future for the two of us. He is my fling, my temporary relief when that dear old husband of mine gets on my nerves, as any loved one will from time to time. There is a sort of exoticism associated with meddling in a field that is not your own and this intrigues me. Besides, there is something exciting about surprising people who think you only know stuff about iambic pentameter.
Anyhow, I would love any science non-fiction book recommendations that you guys have! I do tend to lean towards biology/ecology although I can probably read anything that’s witty/funny and doesn’t have too much jargon. My personal favorite so far is Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. I’m currently tearing through Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (excellent, very funny book by the way – although it does make me cringe sometimes), which I shall attempt to finish and review by the end of next week. :]
Answers: 1.) Fiction (Waking a sleepwalker is more likely to save his or her life), 2.) Fiction (The number of people alive today is dwarfed by the number of people who have ever lived whether we begin counting from the first Homo Sapiens 50,000 years ago, the Egyptian agricultural revolution in 9000 BC, or the Roman rule in 1 AD), 3.) Fact (If small amounts are added, vodka works as a flower preservative by interfering with the plant’s ripening process.)
— Courtesy of Scientific American
Coming soon: movie review for Wanted, common misconceptions about English majors, and more so… stay tuned!