A few years ago, in the car on our way to a Thanksgiving dinner, my brother and I were talking about our much younger sister who was considering going into some sort of science field. Wow, I said, she might actually be successful! I know, he said, we definitely went into the wrong fields. The only thing is, I said, I hate science. You know, he replied, people say that, but there’s usually something in science that anyone can find interesting. You’re right, I said. And then, as I felt my car being pulled ever so slightly in the direction of the truck passing me on the highway (thanks, Bernoulli principle!), I shouted, Wait a minute! I actually love science!

This is how it’s always been with me and science. I think I hate it but I actually love it. This doesn’t make much sense until you consider that it’s all in the presentation.

I went to a super sciency high school and science was everywhere all the time. We really had t-shirts (I did not have this t-shirt) that said “Roses are Red. Violets are Blue. Avogadro’s number is 1023 x 6.02.” (All these years later I remember that this is the number of particles in a mole, but I have no idea why you would want to know such a thing.) Many people from my high school truly loved science, even way back then, and went on to do sciency things in their lives. I did not.

The science that I always thought would be interesting (biology, for example) was so disappointingly uninteresting that I never quite recovered from it. I was always learning facts (RNA = ribonucleic acid) that I never knew what to do with. Meanwhile, the things in science I would have found totally interesting (simple machines, for crissakes!) were made completely uninteresting for me by my terrible twelfth grade physics teacher Mr. Greenberg. There was one physics teacher in our school who took his students outside to demonstrate the Doppler effect; they stood on the corner and listened as he drove his car off into the distance. This was not Mr. Greenberg. Instead I was told I had a bad attitude for coming in late every single day (first period physics!) and whatever joy I had initially gotten from the class (building an electric circuit!) was dashed almost immediately by his exceedingly dull presentation of it.

That same year I also found myself in an Urban Ecology class, where the movie Soylent Green had a profound impact on me, but not for anything related to science, and where, when I could not decide on a topic for my final project, my teacher said to me, You’re doing asbestos, which was probably the first time I discovered that I could find fascinating details in just about any seemingly uninteresting topic.

And so I continued to believe that I hated science. Even though I always found myself drawn to stories of medical discoveries and scientific inventions and pretty much anything related to neurology. Didn’t I always have fascinating conversations with doctors and dentists? Wasn’t I thrilled to recognize the chemical symbols at the beginning of every Breaking Bad episode? Wasn’t I, in fact, practically always talking about science?

I suppose that when something is around you all the time and you are not fully engaged in it the way everyone else seems to be, you can convince yourself that you don’t like it, that you don’t even get it. And this can stick with you for many many years, so that you don’t even see the reality as it is now. Instead you continue to rely on your 25-year-old doubts and Mr. Greenberg’s discouraging remarks. When the truth is, as Agent Mulder would have you believe, out there. I was a fool not to notice. It was there all along, right in my very own DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Science!


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