Exploration is without scope. It can encompass sparks of revolutionary invention or revealing reexaminations of known fact. It can take us soaring up through clouds and stars or deep down into the darkest depths of the ocean. It can be embodied by Viking voyages hundreds of years past or even by a mission much closer to home: the matriculation of modern-day university students.
On August 23, 2013, 1,359 Yale College freshmen bustled into their new dorm rooms for the very first time, greeted their suitemates, unpacked their suitcases, and settled in for the long-haul. For many of these students, freshman year will be a bumpy ride. The beginning of any journey can often be the longest, rockiest stretch of the road. But it can also be an experience of excitement, of growth, and of great discovery.
Welcome to Issue 86.4 of the Yale Scientific. Thanks to our new freshman contributors as well as our returning writers and artists, this issue’s articles will investigate a wide range of scientific “Frontiers of Exploration,” from the microscopic inner workings of synapse formation, to the far-away formation of stars. Two issues back, we published a collection of articles on the theme “Limits and Breakthroughs,” focusing on the value of landmark scientific discoveries. Our hope in this issue is to present a more panoramic perspective on scientific research by covering news in science not just in terms of its end-results, but in terms of the clever inquiry and exploratory work that goes into finding those end-results.
At a time when funds are few and far between in the United States, many scientists who once had access to all the tools they needed to uncover and explore their way to discoveries are starting to come up short. (See “Sequestration Cuts into Scientific Research” on page 27). Now more than ever, the cost of scientific exploration is steep. But its benefits are priceless, yielding improvements that sweep across society, from cheaper health care alternatives to more efficient technologies.
Unexplored frontiers can be daunting, even for the boldest of explorers. Whether the frontier in question happens to be a first year of college or a free market economy, it can be difficult to maintain a steady direction forward in the face of obstacles. But science is all about discovery through trial and error. With the common compass of science guiding us onward, scientists and societies alike are empowered to strive toward discovery, to delve into the unknown, and — perhaps most importantly — to find value in the process of exploration along the way.