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.
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…
Last week, another video went viral. Actually, there were probably several newly viral videos last week, but I only watched the one with the title slightly more interesting than, “ZOMG, MOST EPIC WINFAIL EVAR!!” By now, millions of humans have seen Ambam, the gorilla who ‘walks like a man.’
Except that he doesn’t walk like a man! The world is full of bipeds, and there are plenty of animals that take advantage of more than one form of locomotion. Birds are the easy example because they all walk on two legs (heh, ‘like a man’), and most also fly and/or swim. Frilled lizards walk and climb on four legs, sprint on two, and swim, for goodness sake! For that matter, some snakes can slither, swim, climb, and glide, and they don’t even have legs or wings to work with. Don’t get me started on octopuses. When Ambam walks bipedally, he still walks like a gorilla, just on two feet.
Sure, he does it better and more often than most gorillas. Certainly, gorillas are close enough relatives of humans that witnessing Ambam’s swagger is exciting to us in ways that seeing pigeons strut never will be. The viral video of Ambam ambulating is definitely cool. But what it doesn’t show us is a gorilla doing anything like a man. Even if living around humans has reinforced the behavior in him and his relatives, it’s still gorilla behavior. Similarly, humans may originally have taught dolphins to tailwalk, but when they do it on their own in captivity or in the wild, it’s dolphin behavior.
This may seem like a silly thing to get bothered about, but consider the fallout from all this malarkey. People are already invoking The Planet of the Apes, the ‘missing link,’ and bigfoot, and it hasn’t been a week. Slightly more serious bloggers still have their biology basics terribly wrong – gorillas are not, will not, cannot evolve into humans. Evar. Yet science fiction publishers and producers are probably going to be flooded with dreadful stories about anthropomorphic gorillas for months. If they’re given enough of that dreck, some of it is bound to get published or made into TV movies.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good anthropomorphism. But in sci-fi, gorillas are as overdone and usually as poorly done as werewolves. My hope at this point is that authors determined to immortalize Ambam will do the world a favor and get their facts right:
He’s a gorilla. He looks, thinks and acts like a gorilla. And dammit, he walks like a gorilla, even on two feet.