Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Science Inspires

Think science is a cold, unfeeling subject, too dry to include in story writing? Or maybe it's just there to be used in stories as a plot device, à la disaster films? Think again.

Science opens up a whole new understanding of the universe around us, and our place in it. The knowledge it brings can awaken some of our deepest emotions. Science can be, and is, incredibly beautiful.

Today, I gave a planetarium presentation for sixth graders and blew their minds (nothing unusual there, it's a common occurrence in my line of totally awesome work).

One girl in particular just couldn't stop asking questions. It was great, especially since when the presentation began, the sixth graders were all completely silent, with no questions for me whatsoever. Who wants to look lame in front of their fellow middle schoolers, after all?

After about thirty minutes of teaching, the atmosphere had completely changed (as it always does). The sixth graders couldn't get enough of astronomy. They wanted to know more and more and more. Especially the one girl I mentioned.

"So wait. What's out there after the end of space?"




"So like...emptiness?"

"No. Nothing. Nothing is just that: nothing. It's hard for our minds to comprehend."

"So that's it, then? We get to the edge of the universe, and we can't go any further?"

"Not exactly. The universe is expanding, so we'll never really be able to get to the edge. Perhaps we could get close, but the next moment - bam - it will be bigger."

"But after the universe, there is nothing."

"For our universe, yes, that's how it works."

"Our universe?"

"There may be more than one universe. We might be part of a multiverse. One universe, amongst many. And each with their own rules."

"So...what would be in those universes? Other humans? Could we be in another universe right now, just...different?"

...the questions just kept coming. And who could blame her? It's fascinating to think about. And all provided by science.

She's not alone, either. Every kid has these questions, and more.

The point of this post, is to demonstrate that science is a story. It's the story, in many ways. And I've yet to meet a kid who doesn't want to hear it. Or, as they get older, a kid who doesn't want to hear it after I first get them to sit down and listen for a few minutes. The older the kid gets, the bigger the hurdle to jump to convince them that science isn't "lame" (something I will address in future posts).

However, no matter their age, when my teaching time is up for the day, every kid begs for more. They want to hear the whole story. Science has struck a chord deep inside them, and they want to learn everything they can about it.

But that's the wonderful thing about science. The story is never complete. There is always more to learn.

My challenge to all authors is to take advantage of the naturally awe-inspiring stories science provides, and incorporate them into your work. It won't make your story dull, or make it feel like school, or make it too technical or clinical sounding. It will make it awesome.

Now go watch that Neil DeGrasse Tyson video from earlier in the post, if you haven't done so yet. Maybe you'll see what I mean.

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