The ‘i’ in Science

8/01/18

Science – the horrors of school life start flashing in the minds of many at the mere mention of its name. The dry formulae of physics, the never-ending taxa of biology, the ever-so-complicated questions of mathematics, the never-so-simple reactions of chemistry; science has always been considered a privilege for the genius few and a struggle for the rest. But how can something as incommunicable as this explain our world and our lives? Maybe this doesn’t, for the science that I found outside the textbooks has not only let me understand this world but has also transformed me for the better.

I believe the subject of life, biology, encompasses the majesty, diversity and magnanimity of life itself. As an artist, I connect with nature spontaneously. And biology only helps me explore the wonders of life in more depth. Wood logs have more complex ecosystems than skyscrapers and the depths of seas and oceans have a more diverse community than most parts of land. The thinnest of leaves are factories far more efficient than any counterpart established by humans. As a scientist, as an artist, as a Muslim, as a human being, all this only humbles me and welcomes me to draw as much inspiration from biology as I can.And when at times I don’t, I draw conclusions from simple experiments of biology like hardening of egg albumen by steaming a home-made petri dish (a.k.a. katori), or drawing the eyeballs out of the siri of the slaughtered bull at Eid-ul-Azha to observe its optic nerve and lens. And, if nothing else, I make guesses of the diagnosis of the patients in House M.D.

I am currently a student of electrical engineering, and it was not until I had to face C language in the second semester of my degree that I learned programming. Not very eager about it at start, I pretended that the keyboard of my laptop was actually the keyboard of a piano and that a computer language was nothing more than any other language. So all I had to do was try my best to talk to the computer. It took some time, but when I finally got comfortable with communication in C, I realized that the addition of a new language to my skill set was not the only thing that I had gained: while building logics for different projects, the way I thought logically and performed my tasks had changed too. The tasks which I normally did in a hit-and-trial fashion started turning into a series of well-defined steps, the smoothness of my communication with my computer thawed my technophobia out, and my keyboard never stopped playing symphonies. Besides, the euphoria of a properly executing program is simply unfathomable! I have learned three programming languages by now, and plan on learning more about computing. Now that I look back, I wonder if programming languages were not actually “languages”, would my computing endeavour have been the same.

The subject I am particularly inclined towards is chemistry. My venture in chemistry started from the analytical and experimental and shifted towards the theoretical with the passage of time. Something that I love about chemistry is how dynamic the realm of molecules actually is, and how different substances react and are formed. In fact, if I were to define chemistry, I would dub it the study of “patterns” rather than the study of “matter”.

Kitchen –the one place in the house that is paradise for any chemist! Long before I actually started adoring chemistry, I was drawn towards this majestic laboratory of the house. Even as a kid, I was taken in by the “dynamicity” of all that happens within it. There’s cooking, there’s cleaning, there’s stalactites on the leaking pipe of my water filter, and there’s temporary and permanent hardness in water, which only tempts a chemist. The beautiful manifestation of organic chemistry and biochemistry can be witnessed during the cooking of food. You can witness innumerable chemical phenomena without ever having to wear fancy coats or gigantic goggles (but if you want to have the feels, you may put them on for sure!). Coagulation of proteins in the boiling of eggs, their denaturation in the sourness of milk (chemistry may be nice, but not all the reactions are!), the hydrolysis of sucrose into glucose and fructose in your stale lemonade I believe I can find any chemical reaction in the kitchen if I want to, and if I can’t, why stop there and not make one myself?

A chemical reaction shakes the attendees at the Lahore Science Mela 2017

To me, science is not an aggregation of dry formulae and facts that need to be crammed to score an A in exams; it holds a far greater meaning. To me, science is that bridge which amalgamates all the various aspects of my life, assimilates them and helps me utilize them. To me, science is no more peculiar than the fables of Aesop or the fairy tales of Perrault, and no less fascinating either. To me, science is the name of a journey, a staircase to climb out of the Slough of Ignorance, a venture past the illusion of self-opinionatedness. So, whenever I behold the starry sky at night, a smile spreads across my face. Is it because the biologist wonders about the possible life forms out there? Or because the chemist thinks of the atmosphere of exoplanets? Or because the physicist ponders over the quantum tunnelling attributing to nuclear fusion? Or simply because I feel like joining the dots and trace as many objects out of them as I can? In the end, it doesn’t matter, for all the questions lead to the same place – one step closer to the heart of the universe.

 

The author is a student of electrical engineering at the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore.

Mahnoor Fatima

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