by Theodore R Frimet
to know a fly – dithier
Today we look at the wing of a fly. Not much to see here. “Move on”, you say. I differ. Many are the weekends that I wait for. A trouble free morning. Brush the cat. Stir the coffee. Pop in a microscope slide.
After the obligatory cardiac muscle, followed by a section of frog embryo, I take notice. One or more slides are cracking. Probably due to my early days of the hobby setting in. My nascent ignorance of clearance between 10x and 100x shows up. I disregard the shattered mirrors and move on to the fly’s wing.
Flap. Flap. Flap, I think out loud to myself. That is how a fly propels itself. 4x, 10x, 40x. I stop at 400x, too lazy to oil up for 1000x magnification. I see the individual hairs and their apparent attachment to single minded scales. Then the epiphany.
Each hair is shaped like an individual aircraft wing. Bernoulli’s principle must indeed be at work here! As the fly moves forward, with each gross flapping movement, every minuscule hair catches the breeze. It elevates the vector at hand!
Science is a subject best served to beginners as biology, chemistry, physics, etc. You get it. I did. It was how we were studied and sacrificed to the philosophy. However, in this day and age I am adapting a less liberal approach to study. We must plug the breach that has been formed over the past few years.
The drive towards STEM education is simply superb. However it is going to leave some very bright and well meaning people behind. Not every biologist understands, nor appreciates chemistry. Tell me of a budding physicist that is eager in her first year of study, to undertake what had been the antithesis of ethics, while dissecting once was a living and breathing being?
Quick to enter college, and just as probable to leave the study of science. I know not of where I can source that data. I must have read it in a journal, as of late. The idea is not my origin, however I portend to be an early adopter.
We need to bring into the classroom the science that our charges will practice in the laboratory and at work. If they will profess to be biologists, then focus on real world matter, and place the emphasis on biology. If we expect chemists to emerge to produce the next generation of life saving drugs, then press the periodic table into the outreached palm.
In her testimony (1) on science and technology education, dated March 17, 1999, Shirley M. Malcom, PhD, writes:
We find ourselves with a system of problems that, if taken together, threaten to overwhelm our ability to keep pace with the knowledge and skills needed to manage and maintain the technologically based society and economy we have created.
Our need to import talent has been necessitated by our failures to develop talent, by expanding the talent base for technical and scientific fields.
We have systematically underdeveloped women, minorities and persons with disabilities as crucial human resources for computing, engineering, telecommunications and biotechnology fields among many.
It is easy to agree that elementary and secondary education will need to secure an underpinning of the basic sciences. Let’s point out that along the way, a citizen may stand in the jury box, expected to understand DNA results. Or at the very least, not confuse, as was my personal experience, high value assay results, with copious consumption of illicit drugs. Such misunderstandings will enjoin innocent citizens to a life behind prison walls. This is very serious.
All too serious are the very ingredients of mainstay America, whose youth enter into the fold, and drop out. The math-science obstacle to the freshman kicks them to the curb, and is wasteful of America’s precious resource. The time has come to appreciate the student that has a penchant to look into the optics of the telescope.
In a flash a gamma-ray derived from lightening, all so close to the earths upper atmosphere, lands upon the reticle of the astrophotographer. Ugh! My image is aghast, and I must remove it from the fray! Yes, this is wonders of all wonders. Appreciate now how this works.
If we asked the next amateur to pass muster with biology, chemistry, engineering, and even to master the constellation count of the night sky – they would never, and I insist here, “never”, proceed to the greatness that is the many of you. You will end up capturing photons all by your lonesome. And your grandchild will receive an ignorant ruling from the bench. You betcha.
Caste a wide net. Permit the eager freshman to pursue the specificity of their wants and desires. Muddy not the waters. Do not toss them into the battlefield to skirmish subjects that ultimately will be the demise of 40 to 60 percent of those that once chose to matriculate.
Let the horizon pass. Let it sweep over them as if nothing were of concern. You argue that ignorance is not bliss. The ven overlap of STEM is a necessity for our survival. STEM is a tool, and should not be used in isolation.
Bring out your telescopes. Be aware that the weather now warms and tonight the clouds will become fewer, and more sparse. When the minds, both young and old, ask questions that relate to their night time view, be prepared to discuss astro-biology, astro-chemistry, and a tad bit of astro-physics. All these topics are meant to whet the appetite. They help mould the direction of the next biologist, chemist, or physicist.
See? Not every young amateur will be an astronomer. Yet, you bring potential to birth great science. You shape the future, by reaching the public, not with media, or tweets. It is done by the magical contact of the first sighting of the Rings of Saturn.