More than 60-70 % of the people I know on this planet(I know people only on this planet) and who know me by name or face, are men and women of science. They are so by their chosen professions and their much applauded and recognized education. I myself am an engineer, a member of that exalted body of the worshipers of reason and technology which celebrated only recently its annual day of social recognition. A day when all of us stamped with the initials B.E or B.Tech proclaim their pride in being something which we spend rest of the year mocking or cursing.
As per a 2012 report there are roughly 5300 Engineering college in India, the highest being in Tamil Nadu and the lowest shared by Tripura and Manipur. While by numbers alone it would not be wrong for anyone to presume that there exists a passion for science a desire to create, explore and discover. This is reaffirmed by the high number of students dedicating themselves to medicine. The Higher secondary students in this nation receive more tutoring about Electromagnetism, Calculus and Ketones than do most students elsewhere in this world. Today if I pick up the phone and speak at random to an Engineer and ask him or her, what scientific thing have you done today, what have you done to exercise that massively varied education of your? The answer shall be that absence of audio waves that has become synonymous with the response of any graduate in India when you ask him or her, the purpose of their education beyond the daily acquisition of bread and butter.
Today the average person my age and beyond is more familiar with the ideas of Management, with names like Malcolm Gladwell and Thomas Friedman than with Richard Feynman and Peter Higgs. You are more likely to have read Freakonomics than completed the copy of The Brief History of Time you carry around like a badge. While such generalizations are pleasantly defied by those who embrace higher education and research in all thing scientific, the vast majority of the populous which pledged itself to the betterment of this world via technology is working at number crunching or making software to do it for you. Honorable socially, well paid jobs but with a greater focus on money than on development.
What sparks this tirade against my chosen lifestyle and its alienation from the thing and purpose it was supposed to explore? YouTube of course. I stumbled on one of the best things I have seen in a long time, an event about a year back at the Arizona State University entitled : The Storytelling of Science. Hosted by Lawrence Krauss with Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Brian Greene, Ira Flatow, Neal Stephenson and Tracy Day as members of the panel. Its like the wet dream of any science junkie but what is great about this session is that it starts with each of these familiar faces regaling tales of how they got hooked to science, followed by answering some simple but inspiring questions together. Its informal, its simple and its brilliant. With channels dedicated to instant entertainment, comedy shows and the unimaginative programs being devoured with unappetizing vigor, there is great joy in the discovery of such gems.