Introductory Science Story

How do you see science fitting with your life experiences?

Dr. Sweetland's story -

As long as I remember I have been a doubting "Thomas". I want to experience most things before I will believe. To me experience sometimes means I have to physically be there to manipulate the events, other times witnessing it is needed, and sometimes imagination is good enough. One of my most memorable experiences at an early age of my need to experience first hand, even when told not to, occurred in a restaurant. It was summer sometime in the early 1950's. It was a warm day and our family of four was seated in a corner booth of a diner. I was seated with one exterior wall that had a big window on my right and the other wall behind me was sinstructor and part of familyolid with a built in shelf between the booth and wall that had a huge fan sitting on it blowing air on my back, air conditioning wasn't all that common then. Being curious I was feeling the cool metal casing of the fan and the metal grid that covered it. My mother, sitting across the table from me suggested that I be careful not to stick my finger into the fan. I deliberately waited until she wasn't paying attention to me and stuck my finger into the fan to see what it would feel like. Instantly there was a loud "Clang" that could be heard in the farthest corners of the diner and all eyes were looking at the child facing the fan from where the sound originated. The waitress was at our booth, so quickly that I didn't notice her approach, concerned and inquiring about the condition of my finger. Needless to say I was startled by the noise and withdrew my finger and was inspecting it. To my amazement it was in better condition than my ears and definitely my nerves from hearing it and then suddenly realized everyone in the diner was looking at me. I remember wanting to know what the fan blade felt like on my finger and probably a bit of a desire to do something that I was told not to do, because I also remember thinking I could stick my finger into the fan and remove it without anyone knowing. I learned something about fans and the need to base understanding on experience. I wouldn't suggest sticking your finger into fans, but it wasn't the last time that I did such a thing. Some hurt more than others and there are ones that probably could take a finger off. I would suggest sticking a wooden pencil in first to see how deep a mark is made on the pencil before deciding to subject a finger to the blade. However, most of the time when a person gives a warning not to stick your finger in a fan, because it will be cut off, I have found that they are probably wrong.

My story interpretation

I am skeptical about most everything. I want to experience or witness most things before I will believe it can happen, then I want to figure out how it works, why it does, what its limitations or boundaries are, and its place in the world and relationships to other objects. To me it is awesome when I can collect evidence, use it to create a model or mathematical explanation for what I have experienced. When I learned that this happens to be scientific inquiry, I instantly liked science.

Share an experience of yours that relates to the nature of science.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's Notes ©