Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Nature of Science

"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science." -Edwin Powell Hubble

The four heads bend close over the library table. Other students pass by with their backpacks full of textbooks, ipods blaring in their ears, chatting and running to their next class - but not these four. These four sit with lab books open, periodic tables by their sides, working to balance equations and predict complex chemical reactions. Coffee cups and wrappers from espresso candies lay on the table; most of these four stayed up all night studying for this particular lab and they have to concentrate to keep their sleep-deprived minds from straying.

The four heads bend close over the chemistry fume hood and watch as their copper sample dissolves into the concentrated nitric acid. They take notes as plumes of brown, toxic NO2 rise into the air and try to describe the bubbling green solution left behind. Four pairs of goggled eyes scrutinize the exothermic solution and analyze it to determine its molarity, its pH, its chemical properties and the oxidizing agents. The professor sighs as these four remain after lab; debating, talking, attempting to solve the world's chemical problems...or at least the ones written on the whiteboard.

The four heads bend close over the calculus homework. Graphs, derivatives, chain rules, product rules, square roots and exponents glare back at them like personal challenges. TI-83s lay on notebooks and eraser flakes dust the table; remnants of frustrated attempts at solving ridiculous equations. They finish a problem and one of the four checks the answer in the back of the book....suspense....are their calculations wrong? Success! A feeling of victory lights up the four faces as they move to tackle the next equation. They bend once more over the calculus homework; nerdy jubilation driving them to conquer the next one, and the next, and the next.

"The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting waiting for our wits to grow sharper." -Eden Phillpotts

These four pre-med students are uber nerdy. They get maybe four hours of sleep each night. They call each other at 1am to compare answers and talk through stoichiometry problems. They basically own a table in the library. They annoy the professors by asking "why" much too often. They dream about med school and share stories of anatomy labs and volunteering in the ER. They're pretty weird.

But we have a lot of fun.

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