It has become a routine: I open any kind of social platform and I am welcomed by any number or articles making absurd claims about science.
“Research shows that _____ is like poison to humans”, “According to scientists, this is what the future will look like”, “Scientists have shown that we should stop eating ____”, “A study shows that you may die soon”… They go on.
Who are these scientists? Where is this research taking place? How have we been missing all these amazing new breakthroughs in science?
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing science get publicity, and I love being able to access research and science news with a lot of ease.
Yet, every time I open Facebook and find a headline that ensures me that some mysterious scientists have proven that drinking a lot tequila will make you lose weight, I get annoyed.
I’ll tell you why. I’ve learnt more about scientific research this year: through school experiments, visits to laboratories and through books. With these small pieces of insight into the world of research I have come to understand something:
Science is not glamorous magic.
When you want to conduct a piece of reliable research, you will need to collect A LOT of data. And data collection isn’t always captivating. To someone who peeks into science from the outside, this may be a little disappointing. There aren’t nearly as many bubbling potions and poofy-haired mad scientists. Whoops.
Science requires close attention to small details and a lot of clever problem-solving.
But that’s the magic.
Scientists have to work under tight budgets which don’t allow for massive game plans, so sometimes they have to come up with intelligent solutions to their problems.
If you are interested in learning more about scientific research and how to recognise poorly conducted science, I highly recommend Ben Goldacre’s book “Bad Science”. He explains things in a simple and humorous way that gets you in the mindset for pretending to be smarter than everyone else.
What I’m trying to say in this post is that science isn’t magical in the way most people expect. Most of it isn’t too complicated and can be extremely exciting if you keep the big picture in mind. Nonetheless, it can be tedious if you expect to walk into a lab with beakers of colourful chemicals and maniac scientists laughing at their creations.
Science is an amazing thing to pursue. It offers answers to those who are interested and questions to those who are curious. It traps you.