Science It Is Not A Discipline… But A Way Of Life
Written By: Shreeprakash Sharma|
September 12, 2016|
‘I do not know what I may seem to the world,
but as to myself I seem to have been only like
a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting
myself in now and then finding a smoother
pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst
the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered
before me.’-Isaac Newton
In my nursery class my teacher taught us a
melodious rhyme –
Machchali jal ki rani hai,
Jiwan hi iska pani Hai.
Hath lagaoge to dar jaayegi,
Bahar nikaloge to mar jaayegi.
(Fish is the queen of water upon which her life depends. Try to
catch it and she gets frightened and she dies if you take her out
In those days of innocent childhood I failed to understand the science of natural habitat of the fish and the underlying essential chemistry between the fish and water. The rhyme made a deep impression on my supple mind but it did not come from mature understanding of correlating and deriving any conclusion from the nature of adaptability which existed between the fish and water. But unfortunately the beautiful memory and melody of that fish-water rhyme was lost as I grew up.
One thing is clear – science and scientific facts stay wrapped in ignorance and surrounded by thick and impregnable walls of lack of observation and presence of mind which deter us from going into the depth of separating fact from fiction.
You know the name of the greatest scientist, mathematician and physicist of his time who discovered the law of gravitation that too, in a very ordinary situation, beyond anyone’s imagination, when he saw an apple falling from a tree. His father, a rich farmer, died only three months before he was born. He was born a premature baby with a very feeble physique whom people did not expect to survive long. As per his school reports he was not academically a genius. He was considered a dull and inattentive boy who had to struggle hard to succeed. He was none other than Sir Issac Newton. He had to his credit the invention of calculus, optics, universal law of gravity, motion and forces.
Once Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree. Suddenly he saw an apple fall from the tree. The fall of the apple from the tree struck his inquisitive mind. He had a string of questions – Why did the apple fall to the ground? Why did the apple not go up? What force makes an object like the apple fall to the ground? He ultimately came to the conclusion that anything which is thrown up must come down. He revealed that falling down of an object is guided by a universal force which is now popularly called the force of gravitation.
Albert Einstein’s life was a story of keen observation of not only the objects on the earth. He also earnestly read how the complex scientific postulates can be correlated with human behaviour and psychology. They say that to explain the famous ‘ Theory of Relativity’ to a layman he cited a very pragmatic example of what we may call the most innate and universal truth about the psychology of the Homo sapiens. He explained it, ‘When we spend hours with beautiful girls the awareness of time goes away and it seems to be only a matter of minutes but when we sit on a very hot frying pan even for a fraction of a second we feel we have been sitting on it for very long’.
The aforesaid anecdotes related to the life stories of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and their contribution to the domain of science unfold the saga of how the temper and flair of science can be unraveled, nurtured and developed in the angelic cherubs and technosavvy young generation of the new 21st century.
No doubt, observing the entire gamut of natural and mundane phenomena occurring in our surroundings pretty minutely and seriously thinking over their repercussions and establishing any postulates may work as a magic for the scientific development in a country. What did Archimedes do? He was inside a bath tub and observed that a particular force uplifted his body whenever he took a dip into the water and he ran from there in a semi-clad condition shouting ‘Eureka!’, ‘Eureka!’ Thereafter what happened is not unknown to the world. The theory of floatation was born with Archimedes’ observation.
But unfortunately the young generation of the modern age of the internet-incarnation has surprisingly stopped observing the various incidents occurring in and around their environment. The growing trend of watching television and keeping one’s eyes hooked on to the mobile have wrought havoc on the power of concentration and observation which do not augur well for the whole world. The modern generation lacks quality time for pondering over various incidents occurring around them. J. Robert Oppenheimer has very correctly commented, ‘There are children playing in the street who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago’. This is the sensory perception, reckoned as the stepping stone of development of science, we urgently need to revive.
After observation, comes the process of asking questions like, ‘What’, ‘Why’, ‘Who’, ‘Where’, ‘How’ and ‘When’. The great scientist Albert Einstein once said, ‘The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend little of this mystery.’
The propensity of asking questions is on the wane, and in some cases, curiosity of the supple minds about various miracles, scientific and natural wonders of the universe has absolutely ceased. This trend does not bode well for the world where nearly 30 percent of the population still suffer from problems of basic human needs of food, shelter and clothing. It is not only the life style of the people and the modern gizmos that are to be blamed for the mess and chaos which have given birth to stagnancy of development of scientific flair and temper and among the students.
What about our education system which unduly focuses on scoring marks by parroting rather than understanding the things via exploring and doing? Albeit the resource crunch, especially in the fast-developing economies like that of India, cannot be underestimated for the insignificant stride made in the research activities and scientific advancements in which the developed nations like Japan, USA, Switzerland and majority of European nations are so fast progressing. The credibility of our universities is exposed when they fail to make it to the list of the galaxy of the foreign universities which excel in academic and research activities. There is no gainsaying the fact that we need a holistic paradigm change in the way we impart education, the way we live our lives and the way we visualize the shape of the world for the generations to come.
In the wake of the growing menace of race for nuclear proliferation and test firing of nuclear we a pons among the nations across the world a vital question of self-introspection arises – Science for what? Is it only for the sake of science? Is it only for the sake of inventions and discoveries? What about the philanthropic role of science to render the much-needed welfare and happiness to the most-downtrodden segment of the society? What about the contribution of the miracles of science to eliminate the age-old problems of poverty, illiteracy, hunger, hatred, bloodshed, superstition, terrorism and other socio-economic maladies and psycho-physical ailments from which nearly one fourth of the global population is suffering? Malnutrition among the children, infant mortality and maternal mortality rate need to be reined in. Life expectancy has, no doubt, more than doubled since the eve of India’s independence. But we are still far behind the developed nations of the world.
The green revolution of 1960s needs to be reinvented to ensure food security for all strata of society. Here science can play an epoch-making role and provide the much-needed solutions to what have now been lurking as challenges beyond our resources and intelligence.
J.Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, had said, ‘We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent’. Who can deny that the invention of the atom bomb has been wreaking havoc on the sustainability of mankind across the globe especially when the nations all over the world are vying with one another to gain supremacy?
Albert Einstein had said, ‘Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.’ Science must understand its moral duty of sustaining and of uplifting mankind; science must understand the religion of maintaining global peace and mental tranquillity of people; and, most importantly, science must realize the need of returning this earth to the coming generations in the same form as we had inherited it from our ancestors.
Shreeprakash Sharma holds a postgraduate degree in Economics and a B Ed degree. He has been working as a Post-Graduate Teacher of Economics at the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Birauli, Bihar, for the last fourteen years. He writes for a number of magazines in English and Hindi as a freelancer on motivational and socio-familial themes.