|MadSci Network: Science History|
What are some of the scientific breakthroughs that have been of any help to our world? Antibiotics, electric lighting, sewer treatment, defibrillators, cordless power tools, radio, the global positioning satellites, telephones, plastic, photography, and refrigeration come to mind. But looking at your question, I get the feeling you're talking more about things long gone, like dinosaurs. Sure, we're all glad we have computers, airplanes, and air conditioning, but what makes the study of dinosaurs relevant today? Let's think of it this way. What if I say "Minus four, what comes next?" That question doesn't make a lot of sense. But if I say "Three, two, one, zero, minus one, minus two, minus three, minus four, what comes next?" When you can see enough of the pattern, you can see what's coming next. It may not have been an asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs. It may have been something else, like a new strain of disease that killed off the plants they ate. It may have been something we haven't even imagined yet. We don't know, but I think it's important we find out. Because if we know enough about why major events in our planet's history happened, we can know how to deal with such events next time they come around. We'll know what comes after minus four. A lot of scientific research seems trivial, until people in the field of study explain why it matters. For instance, I really don't care much if a laboratory somewhere has discovered how to cut very small grooves into a solid using x-rays instead of a razor blade. How can that have any relevance to my life? Then I learn that those micro-grooves in silicon are filled with copper wires to make next year's computer chips smaller and faster and less expensive than last year's chips, and it's not just useless trivia anymore. So before you laugh at the scientists on the BBC, delve a little deeper into what it is they're saying. It might be more important than you first realize. Layne Johnson
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