In my life, there has always been a central way of thought that directs and influences the way I act and the choices I make. That way of thought reflects my love of the empirical and investigative outlook provided by science. Though the majority of life transcends mere facts and takes on an entirely new level of knowing, to know the basics is to be able to differentiate between what is true and what isn’t at the most fundamental level. With that understanding, it is possible to go on any number of journeys into the theoretical and fantastic yet never lose hold on what is true. This knowledge of the truth, unable to be corrupted by multiple interpretations or changed on a whim, has always drawn me. When it comes to truth, I began as a believer in what I could see, taste, touch, smell, and hear, and I even had my doubts about that on occasion. By extension and necessity, I have also become a believer in logical processes which can deduce things not normally apparent to the senses.
Ever since I was young, the thought that there was something more to our universe than meets the eye captivated me in a way nothing else seemed to. Knowing that what we see isn’t necessary the way things worked pressed me to understand the inner workings of things that are normally ignored. While this drive may have lead me to the faith-based religious end of the spectrum, the insatiable human need to personify one’s surroundings has never held meaning for me. The explanation that an event occurred because something felt like making it happen at that time, while easy to explain and comforting to believe, gives me pause for several reasons. One is the incredible sense of entitlement it reflects, that something that transcends physics has both emotions and wishes so flatteringly similar to ours, and that it would choose to spend that incredible power on making it rain. So then, if not because something or someone felt like it (which doesn’t need a cause), then there must be another reason. It has always been that question that drives me to understand things at their most basic and fundamental level.
For me, the presence of facts and hard, cold truths in life is not sufficient to bring forth any real understanding. While providing the basis for knowledge, facts are meaningless unless viewed in context. A computer contains facts, but if you tried to have a discussion with it, you would find it to be less than interesting. It’s the meaning and the endless questioning that differentiates human intelligence and the recollection of a machine. While computers can access facts and act on them rapidly, unencumbered by the knowledge of why the facts are important, only humans can take those facts and know them in a way that becomes almost pure instinct. I am a creative person, and by definition creativity is spontaneous and unusual. While the random thoughts and emotions I weave into stories and actions surely have an origin, the cause is so wrapped up in chance that they may as well have come from anywhere. It is this creativity that lends a human edge to the pursuit of facts, and tempers my expression of it. After all, a solely creative person would be without a base or any single direction in thought, while one immersed purely in facts would lack personality. I strive to balance facts with creativity and the human questions that make them meaningful.
In pursuit of this understanding, which is a combination of facts and the knowledge of where they fit in, I have encountered a gray area between what is real and what is assumed. This area lurks where the senses end and hypothesis as to the cause or outcome of the event begin. Where do we go when our senses cannot perceive the very thing we try to understand? Do we assure ourselves it occurred because something felt like making it happen? This is where the necessity of logic, and the salvation of science based on fact, comes in. Some things are so apparent they do not have to be proven. Saltwater, for example, contains salt. You know this because you can put the salt in and make it, or you can remove the water and be left with salt. You can’t see the salt in the saltwater, however you know that it is there. At the most basic level, it is an assumption. However, using logic, you can string together facts to reach a conclusion that is otherwise an assumption. These simple assumptions based on related facts can be applied on a much greater scale, which makes such things as quantum theory possible. Any number of elaborate anomalies or everyday occurrences which have no perceivable physical source can be explored by this process. Armed with these tools, my drive in life is to ask questions and to have them answered in a way that makes sense, and the only field that answers the questions my curiosity generates has been science.
Unfortunately, I’ve found logic to be a double edged sword when used on such a great scale as the universe. While things familiar to us can be logically predicted based on similar occurrences and previous experiences, it is egotistical to believe that all things behave in ways that make immediate sense to us. While the most basic or general phenomenon can be deduced using human logic, there are many too strange or unusual to be accurately guessed at. In this case, the physical and logical aspects of science must be used in conjunction. While the great majority of modern science is born of theories rather then facts, the only method to discover the real inner workings of things is through the process of elimination. Disproving theories until only one remains that cannot be disproven brings us closer to scientific truth. That is the basis for science in the modern world as we expand our questions to encompass things that cannot be readily perceived, and that is the system that has always made perfect sense to me. With seemingly logical assumptions backed up or disproven by hard facts, things beyond normal perception can be understood with greater accuracy.
These thoughts and methods have been present in my mind since I began to question the way the world worked. Maybe its not even the answers that I desire so much as exploring the questions and the process in doing so. Either way, the application of both the senses and the mind to it’s full potential in such a way excites and fulfills me as no other subject. Science is the discovery of the universe and the way everything works, and I can’t think of anything more captivating then the pursuit of understanding. Though I have many interests, my passion for science tends to shine through in all of them, often in the nerdiest sense possible. Usually its knowing some obscure fact that creates long, awkward pauses as my friends roll their eyes. Often its seeing something perfectly ordinary and wondering as to all the reasons behind it. The questions I wonder about, both wonderful in scope and intimidating in size, can only be satisfied by stepping beyond wondering and seeking the answers. All real understanding starts with a question, and the more curious a person is in one area, the more motivated they will be to learn in that subject. With me, it’s simple. I want to know how everything works. With such a large question, the answer, I’ve found, lies within my love of science.
I build my life around searching for these answers, and for me it is the quest and resolution that makes the questions worth asking. Thinking and questioning like a scientist has changed and improved my life in countless areas, and has helped satisfy my natural curiosity. Fortunately, that curiosity seems impossible to ever fully satisfy, leaving me always with something to strive for. At night I lay in bed and wonder about life on other planets. I wonder about stars, and energy, and anti-ballistic fibers, and viruses, and antimatter, and black holes, and a thousand different things that I don’t know the answer to… yet.