Scientific temper and change

“Think science, develop a scientific temperament.” That’s what Dr. A.PJ. Abdul Kalam said. Here are 10 easy steps to sharpen your scientific temper and bring about significant changes in the way you pursue science.

  1. Ask questions: Politely, but enthusiastically. Elders love to answer questions on scientific happenings. Ask: Why can’t human beings fly like birds? Why do I breathe out smoke when it’s cold? What is God particle and how will it affect us? Will Artificial Intelligence make me a dud? The greatest inventions/discoveries were made when someone wondered about something. British engineer George Stevenson asked himself. “What makes the kettle lid jump when the water boils?” And the steam engine was born. Can’t find anyone to answer your questions? Check out books in the library. You are sure to find a lot more than you asked for!
  2. Be curious: Wherever you are, whatever you are doing. When you are walking, check out bugs on the road, on the trees, check out the odd-looking stone. Inside a building, see how it is built, observe the pictures on the walls. If you are on a beach, watch how many birds have built nests on those leaf-less trees. Ask fisherfolk how they stand steady on a boat riding waves. Wonder why the sun goes orange at twilight. Take pictures and do your research for answers. Curious people never get bored. The world around is full of fascinating things.
  3. Read: Books on inventions, discoveries. Read life stories of the greatest scientists. In ancient India, Sushruta could do 300 surgical procedures. He knew how to stitch up wounds. In 1633, Galileo was tried for saying the Earth moves around the Sun: he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Edison’s lab, a bam, burned down but that didn’t stop him from patenting 1.000-odd inventions, including motion picture, electric bulb, and sound recording. Find fascinating facts about the invention of the ballpoint pen by Ladislas Biro and his brother George in the 1930s. How did Charles Babbage change the world? What were this year’s Nobel Prize winners awarded for?
  4. Try to solve problems:  “How do I fix this?” should be your constant mantra. You could start with your everyday problems. How do you ensure that your clothes for school are ready in the morning? How do you fit instruments in your box? How do you keep the phone charged? What do you do if your room is swarming with ants? Fixing these efficiently is a pointer to your scientific thinking. Don’t you calculate the pressure you exert to kick the ball into the goal post or to whack a six in cricket? Have you noticed how Roger Federer’s service hits the ground at impossible angles?
  5. Scientists are never sloppy in their work: Whether it is homework, lab work, sports, projects, or money-spending, keep neat records. Notes of great scientists have helped those who followed them in the work. “If have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” said Isaac Newton. Quickly make a note of what you have finished, what you need to do, what is left undone-on a notebook or key it into a computer. Neatly recorded information becomes crucial for re-checking of facts, writing reports, etc. The steps in the method help you prove your answer. You can compare prices over a period of time, measure your success in sports. Records of one project may help you start another. Have you noticed how easy it is to make lab records if you have written down the results of your experiments immediately, neatly?
  6. Make experimenting a habit:  Remember, different problems have different reasons, different solutions. Do not jump to conclusions. Look at a problem from all angles, everyone’s point of view. If your bicycle isn’t running smoothly, is it the old tyre? Lack of grease? Bad handle bars? Height of the seat? Think of different possibilities. Try out ideas. Mix colours and shapes for new results. Try different notes if you play an instrument. Use different pitches and modulate your voice if you’re on stage. Experiment with different programmes on the computer. Be hands-on. It is possible the answers are different when you change an experiment, so you may have to redo the experiment to compare the answers.
  7. Lean Learn about steps and processes:  First, ask a question to identify a problem. What type of food do cats like the best? Then learn everything about the question-collecting data is an essential part of the scientific method. Research, ask those who have cats. Speak to a vet. Check out information online. Read books on cats. What have other scientists done about it? Based on the research, make a prediction. Which food will your cat like? Now move to the experiment stage. You can create an experiment in a lab or by going outside and measuring something as proof. In the case of the cat, give it the foods that you have researched on. Write down the results. What did you find? Finally, share your inference. What do others think? This is called peer review.
  8. A true scientific mind asks for- and gives- evidence: See that your answers are backed by proof. In fact, this works in all that you do. When you write an essay, make sure your ideas/ arguments are supported by examples, statistics, reports, studies, etc. Put down steps that clearly show that your answer is accurate. When the MET office says we had 45% rains, how do they know it? What is the basis for such conclusions? If you say your neighbourhood is filled with garbage, can you prove it? Do you have photographs? Have you seen people throwing garbage in street corners? Have you checked with the municipality about the weight of the garbage? Make statements/complaints based on provable data.
  9. Stay calm: Keeping emotions such as anger and frustration out and thinking calmly is what the scientific temper is all about. It helps to avoid emotional responses. Instead of getting angry about some school rules, why don’t you ask why they are there? Why is that important experiment in the chemistry lab not producing results? Close your eyes for a few seconds and breathe deeply. Then go through the steps again. Did you follow them meticulously?
  10.  Believe:  Have faith that your sharp powers of observation and deduction will help you solve problems. Yeah, sure, experiments fail. There may be setbacks. That should not make us lose heart and abandon the project. Improve the steps you follow. Read up and research more, consult others – but never give up. Do you know how much work went into discovering the X-ray? Read about Wilhelm Roentgen, the scientist. Faith leads to persistence, and with that comes success.

Picture Credit : Google 

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