Science is not romantic. It’s unquantifiable time spent in a lab completing experiments on low-budget grants. It’s studying through mountains of textbooks hoping your brain doesn’t erupt or sublimate into hydrogen sulfide.
No, science isn’t romantic — not in the way that writing or architecture or economics are romantic pursuits. Few movies showcase the transformation of an underprivileged kid into a seismologist because earthquakes aren’t considered as beautiful as the ability to put pen to paper, or to design breathtaking city skyscrapers, or to overcome poverty and become a millionaire stockbroker working in a marble-lobbied, glass-windowed office building.
In a time when science ingenuity is needed most, science’s popularity is dwindling. According to reports from the New York Times, the number of college students willing to dedicate themselves to a challenging science major dropped as much as 40 percent in 2011.
But science lies at the core of the most pressing problems we face, from healthcare to global climate change. These issues require innovative thinking and an understanding of scientific principles. Ideally, this should start at a young age. Elementary school isn’t too early to emphasize the sciences as much as math or reading comprehension. Higher education should include more applications of science to modern, real-world problems.
Even if these actions don’t encourage more students to choose a career in the sciences, they’ll at least help combat science illiteracy in our generation, which is a growing concern. According to a survey conducted by the California Academy of Sciences and published in Science Daily, less than 50 percent of American adults know how long it takes for the Earth to make one revolution around the Sun, and even fewer can approximate how much of Earth’s surface is submerged under water.
Reading Web MD and watching House doesn’t make you scientifically literate. To further close the gap between the general public and high-level scientific information, we need great communicators beyond what popular media provides. Science speaks its own language. A theory isn’t a hunch but rather an accepted idea; a scheme isn’t devious, but rather systematic; enhance isn’t to improve but rather to intensify. To overcome the language barrier, science and the general public need to meet halfway, with better communication by science writers and better education of the general public.
So even if the extent of your scientific curiosity is Grey’s Anatomy or another “medical” drama, it’s important that you make an effort to be scientifically literate. Even if Hollywood ignores science-related professions, today’s youth shouldn’t. And honestly, I can’t think of anything more romantic than solving world hunger or curing cancer.