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Science Ruins Everything--or Does It?

Authored By: 
Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez, Science Teacher

There are many things we experience in our day-to-day life that we believe just can't be explained, like déjà vu, love, the amazing feeling that washes over you when you feel the warmth from the sun on a winter day, or that distinct smell that only comes right before it rains.  As Mark Twain said, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." These incredible phenomena that many of us deem so personal and unexplainable can be explained with scientific theories.

 

·      Déjà Vu

 

While I'd like to believe déjà vu is due to my realizing an experience bizarro-me is having in a parallel universe, science will tell you that unsettling déjà vu feeling, no matter how strong it feels, is your brain playing tricks on you.  While scientists don’t know exactly what is going on, explanations include a possible glitch between your short- and long-term memory, or simply the message from your right eye reaching your brain faster than the one from the left eye.

 

·      Love

 

While I love my husband, dog and family so much it physically hurts, and I have had my heart broken and lost people and really felt an ache in my chest, science oh-so-romantically explains love as a series of chemical reactions in your brain.  So why does it hurt when you're "heartbroken?" Your brain is your body's control center.  When you are in love, it sends messages that release chemicals in your body; when you lose love, you are actually going through withdrawal and your brain is in survival mode ,sending chemicals that stimulate your heart and lungs.

 

·      Latin Roots, Pretty Words

 

I'd like some things to remain unexplainable.  Unfortunately, early scientists and their reliance on Latin to explain the world around them just won't let that be.  Latin is the language of science.  The Latin meanings for "warmed by the sun" and "rock fluid" are used to describe the feeling of the warmth of the sun on your skin in winter and that characteristic earthy smell that picks up just before it rains as apricity and petrichor respectively. Therefore, those sensations that defy explanation have a name even if we may truly feel they are quite beautifully indescribable.

 

I could go on, but please don't get me started on the statistical probability that there is just one soulmate for each person. (Check out Randall Munroe’s explanation in his book, What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.  It will make your head spin.)

 

At this point, I think it's important that you understand that, as a science teacher, I don't really think science really ruins everything.  In fact, I think it makes many things infinitely better: healthcare, alternative energy, and molecular gastronomy, just to name a few examples.

 

My favorite thing that science enhances is reading. A great background in science will make reading On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin a little easier, but that's not the type of reading I'm talking about.  In a previous blog, I discussed the science in Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy and Ally Conde's Matched trilogy.  In April White's Immortal Descendants series, I have found a new guilty pleasure: an exciting, scientifically accurate gem.  The drama- and action-filled teen fiction books are chock full of awesome and uncomplicated descriptions of genetics with a bonus tutorial in history.  While reading about time traveling Saira Elian's adventures, you learn about how genes work using promoters, the importance of telomeres in a cell's lifespan, genetic engineering with viruses, events in Victorian and Medieval England, and battles of World War II.  The final book in the series came out January 26th, so excuse me while I recline in a window seat that allows me to enjoy the apricity and petrichor that accompanies the winter-to-spring weather change while experiencing déjà vu because I'm reading a book I love thanks to science.

 

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