I love science and I have the curiousity of the proverbial cat. I want to know how and why. I also have a firm belief that nothing you learn is ever wasted. I can't stand all the myths and stories that tried to teach that a quest for knowledge was something that would bring about ruin and death. Sure, curiosity can kill you. So can ignorance. I am completely convinced that I would have eaten the damn apple without much more prompting than the promise of knowledge. I also believe that knowledge should be shared, an act which should not be something to get your liver ripped out for by an eagle every day for an eternity. This probably has a lot to do with why I ended up as a librarian.
That being said, how the knowledge is obtained matters a great deal. A quest for knowledge requires honor and justice just like any other act undertaken in a day. I need to take a minute to acknowledge those that unknowingly or unwillingly gave of themselves and those caught in the danger zone of an event not of their making but that have been the key to knowledge that has enriched my life. A knowledge quest requires caution also. Proceeding without a safety plan in place is a disaster waiting to happen. 'Look before you leap' is pretty good advice but you can't predict every outcome and sometimes you fly too close to the sun, discover a radioactive element or go look in the creepy basement to see what is making the howling noise. Through time, we have a lot of people (and lab animals) to thank for making the leap for us. We also have to thank the ones who chronicled the discovery, series of events, or consequences so we could learn from them. Also, the ones that wrote the lab report and crunched the data and those that followed up with more questions and critiques and observed the similarities, repetition and patterns.
Too often, people who set out to make this quest their life's work are labeled as everything from academic or dreamer to nerd or dangerous. Labeling something tends to mean that there is a way to include or exclude something from a group. When labels are applied to people, it becomes easy to say 'I am that' or 'that's not me'. It is easy to add positive or negative meaning to a label, influencing the desirability of identifying one's self with that group. I think curiosity and looking for knowledge are as common to all people as seeking a comfortable temperature or a place to sleep. The only label that applies is 'human'.
That brings me back to the Mythbusters. I love the show because they treat the search for knowledge as an endeavor for everybody (and there are explosions). There is joy in the seeking and that was apparent watching the pure enthusiasm and humor of Adam Savage and the dry commentary offered by his solemn partner-in-crime Jamie Hyneman. It's messy and can be dangerous as they show in a montage of Adam's misadventures with a vacuum motor and a drunken (for science) run on a treadmill, among other things. Like I mentioned, having a safety plan is crucial and they talked about how their planning has grown as the seasons have gone on. It can also be loud and earthshaking. Through the sound system, they reproduced the noise and reverberation of one of their explosions and that was worth the price of admission alone. Adam also makes a point that there are going to be failures in the process and those provide knowledge too. The Mythbusters encourage others to go looking for answers and keep at it. The audience participated in demonstrations and experiments and they let people ask questions. The show motto seems to be "don't try this at home" but they still encourage people to try safe things (or sign a waiver). The show has probably done as much to encourage interest in the STEM fields as any Department of Education curriculum mandate. I have the Mythbusters, Adam and Jamie, plus the other team members not on the tour, to thank for sparking my daughter's lasting interest in science. These folks (along with Alton Brown and the Black Widow) are her heroes and it was great to see her enthusiasm shared by so many. In the end, Adam and Jamie left the stage to a yelling, stomping standing ovation and Zeppelin rock and rolling. Thankfully, that's a long way from getting kicked out of the garden.
A twit pic from Adam's time in Minneapolis.
As my friend drove me back to my hotel after dinner last night, we came upon this marquis. Look who's playing! pic.twitter.com/c8V8o6eLP7— Adam Savage (@donttrythis) December 3, 2013