Weird science

Little-known fact: as a kid, I wanted to be a scientist “when I grow up.” I had no idea what kind of scientist. It just seemed like a field in which I’d have interest. You could come up with crazy ideas, run experiments, and then, um, I guess tell people about your results or something. I really didn’t have a clue how one went about becoming a scientist or really what you did once you attained said position, but it seemed more realistic than ballplayer or astronaut (both of which I entertained for a minute or two, as I believe all American boys are required).

I maintained a pretty strong interest in science throughout my secondary education, even in the face of worsening grades early in high school, but by my sophomore year–with adulthood only a few years away and the true path to becoming a scientist looking far less sexy than artist or musician–that pretty much died. The only science I’d ever dive into with serious effort was social science, and not until college more than a decade later.

But listening to David Leckrone, retired senior project scientist for NASA’s Hubble Telescope, on this morning’s “State of Nevada” talk about astrophysics-related topics such as the expansion of the universe, the composition of our solar system and, especially, dark matter, I was reminded how fascinating all that stuff is to me, and how much of my interest in media such as comic books and science fiction spawns from a genuine curiosity about the fabric of reality.

It also made me miss Science Friday on NPR’s now-defunct “Talk of the Nation.”

Chances are, I’m too easily distracted/lazy to ever have succeeded in the hard sciences. Even the statistics and research classes required for my sociology major turned me off to pursuing that field toward a graduate degree. But I still sometimes think it would be cool to actively help uncover the mysteries of the universe while using those discoveries to improve the practical world. Or just to be reminded how awesome and endless the intricacies of existence are beyond the daily muck with which we overly concern ourselves.

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