If humans love anything, it’s our tools. Yes, hammers and wrenches and probes and mass spectrometers, but also the subtler tools. Tools that help us play well together, like the arts, and tools that help us learn. Like science.
Humans also love shortcuts. There’s a reason articles on tips, tricks and secrets are so popular on the web. And we writers are anything but immune to the temptation of the cheat – what is storytelling but a canny twist on reporting?
Because everyone finds devices of one kind or another irresistible, I’ve dug up a few of the mnemonic sort that make an infamously formidable tool rather more approachable. Yes, thanks to the magnificent multi-tool that is arts, Ye Olde Periodic Table of Elements earworm has a few new music videos.
Watch and learn, then pass them on. After all, isn’t that why we built the internet – to share information?
School, like most of everyday life, is at times boring and occasionally a waste of time. We can place blame for that squarely upon the education system and teachers, or share it with parents if we’d like to keep diplomacy in the PTA. But although it’s true that the adults who shape and deliver education as we know it are largely responsible for what we learn and how well we learn it while we are children, we have nobody but ourselves to blame for allowing ignorance to persist after we grow up.
No matter how dreadful your education experience was as a child, if you reached adulthood literate enough to use the internet, then you should find developing a passing acquaintance with basic science concepts both convenient and entertaining. The idea that learning should be fun and easy is so compelling that YouTube is positively swarming with video bloggers enthusiastically sharing knowledge.
Because I am a science enthusiast and a lifetime devotee of independent study, I’ve compiled a video playlist of some of my recent favorites in that genre. To eliminate some common misconceptions, the playlist opens with the definition of science. From there, it builds from some interesting basics about water and carbon, covers some of the science frequently botched by Hollywood and in other fiction, and demonstrates that girls plus math equals win. Then follows a musical interlude, but it’s all science, so it’s all good. The last few are a sampler of videos posted by universities and science publishers for viewers who prefer productions with bigger budgets.
Predictably, that fandom overlaps speculative fiction fandom quite a bit, but sadly, television science appears to have eclipsed science in sci-fi altogether. While it’s wonderful that scientists and Hollywood are forging new alliances for the sake of conjuring realism and as a canny method of reminding the masses that science is relevant to their interests, it’s disheartening to watch literature surrender that influence one sparkly vampire at a time.
No, it’s worse than disheartening. It’s uninteresting. And it’s unhealthy for speculative fiction to eschew – even disdain – science. Reading science-less sci-fi is like eating a junk food diet. How can the genre with science in its name be taken seriously if it’s about as intellectually nutritive as a Twinkie? Was it inevitable that television would eventually surpass literature as inspiration as well as entertainment?
Wonder of wonders, TV viewers like a little science in their fiction! Given the overlap between television audiences and people who read books, it’s probably safe to assume that readers also like a little science in their fiction. We should get back on that bandwagon.
If you want to make the world a smarter place, it’s not always enough to create an image, post to a blog, or even write a book. Sometimes, if you really want to get inside people’s minds, you have to set your message to music. That’s right; it’s time to send in the earworms!
Disclaimer: The following playlist may or may not make the world a smarter place, but at this point, we’ll take all the help we can get…
A few months ago, my sci-fi short, Pieces of You, was published in M-Brane SF magazine. It’s a fairly straightforward coming of age story about a boy and his adoptive android guardian. I knew when I wrote it that I didn’t have everything right about robots, and of course I doubt humans will ever replace existing foster care systems with highly sophisticated machinery. But given recent developments in human simulation, I won’t be shocked to find myself sharing an apartment with a social robot of some kind in the next few years. Even if it is just a cantankerous Roomba.
Maybe house-bots will never amount to more than personal or medical assistants and glorified mechanical pets. And really, if we want much more than that from the machines in our homes, we should probably take the opportunity to re-evaluate the human social structures that make automating our most intimate affairs seem necessary.
Fair warning, the video below is Not Safe For Work!