Thank a Scientist Today
Posted by Rystefn on June 20, 2008
First, thanks to JanieBelle for linking me in her blogroll. It’s a small thing, but it’s a small thing that put a smile on my face. If you’re not familiar and over 18, go there right now.
Second, a lot of my friends and acquaintances in the Skeptical world are away at TAM this weekend. I’m jealous. I guess we’ll have to add that to the list of things I regret never doing. To everyone there who might read this, lift a glass in my name. If you know someone there, tell them to do the same. If you get a big group of half-drunk people raising their glasses and trying to figure out how to pronounce my name, get a video and post it on YouTube for my entertainment. If you do, I’ll owe you forever. That would honestly be just about the coolest thing I can think of just now… but then, it’s awfully late, so that might not be saying much.
Today I spent most of the day talking with friends, which is a good way to spend a day. For those of you who don’t know, my friends are scattered all over the world, so this almost by definition requires a lot of computer time. It occurred to me today that what most people would call a computer addiction, I call maintaining ties with my loved ones. We live in a marvelous world in the 21st century. Mind-boggling technologies we take for granted surround us constantly… and yet most of the population of this country seems to be neo-Luddite in its mistrust of much of it.
A worldwide network of effectively instantaneous communication, and it’s considered a character flaw to use it to its fullest. Today, I spoke with friends in Honk Kong, Canada, Chicago, Texas, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and half a dozen other places from my home, in real time, simultaneously. I know living people who can remember a time when such a thing could not be accomplished at all. There was a time, not so long ago, when space flight captured the minds and imaginations of a generation. Now it’s considered by many a money-hole without value. Medicine is under attack from homeopathy, naturopaths, and faith-healers… I could go on and on.
This is nothing new, really. Throughout history, there have been many times and places where the advancement of knowledge was viewed with fear, anger, and/or revulsion by the masses. Now, however, in a time of unprecedented scientific and technological advancement, those would seek to hold us back have much more destructive power in their hands. If the Dark Ages in Europe had lasted twenty years, we wouldn’t have noticed… but imagine us now held to the technology of two decades past.
“Leaps and bounds” is the phrase I hear most often when describing our advances in recent history, and no indication that the acceleration will slack in the near future. It won’t be long before we find that there are only two levels of technology on this planet: the cutting edge, and the obsolete. We’re not so far from it now. How old is your computer? Compare the specs to the top-of-the-line today and see what I mean. Now imagine if, instead of “pwning” people in an online game, real human lives hung the balance of the superiority of that system. Imagine tanks, jets, artillery, spec-ops… You’re not imagining some sci-fi future world. That’s the present. Right now. This very moment, a man or woman lives or dies by the power of a computer… Lots of them, in fact. Lag is the difference between evading an enemy patrol and a bloody firefight.
All of science is integrated. Nothing exists in a vacuum, least of all knowledge. Any attack on scientific advancement in any field is an attack on all knowledge, and an attempt, consciously or no, to destroy us. People always say things like “thank a soldier,” well I say, “thank a scientist.” Many of us don’t know one, or don’t know that we know one… but if we look, we can all find one. Thank them for the work they do. No matter what they’re studying, they’re saving lives, and making those lives, and billions of others, better.
If you don’t know where to start, here are two relatively high-profile types who I’m sure won’t be offended by me sending random strangers their way: Phil Plait, and
PZ Meyers. I’m sure if you ask either, they’ll both gladly send you along to many more.
Yes, for those of you who pay attention to such things, both will be at TAM. Very astute of you. Get me pics and/or video of either raising a glass in my name and I’ll do something nice for you. I’m trusting you no to cheat here, but I might ask, so don’t cheat here. Bonus points if they pronounce it right, but WAY more if they mangle it into unpronounceability.