TED Conversations

Yu-An Chen


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Why don't we have more "Kitchen" scientists?

When people hear the word "Science", they often think of fancy labs with high technology equipment, and this is not too far off-- In my Bioelectricity class, for example, we learned about patch clamp experiments, which use tiny electrical recorders called micropipettes to record electrical currents from single ion channels in cells, and the voltage clamp experiments performed by Hodgkin and Huxley, in which they managed to thread wires through a single axon! These experiments, and a lot of other important experiments outside this field, require a lot of expensive machinery, chemicals and facilities. But does science always have to be a luxury? For example, instead of using expensive fish-eye lens for photography experiment, we could simply buy a much cheaper door viewer to get the same barrel distortion effect. Or you can go online and buy kits to record from brains, or if you live in New York City, you can join the community laboratory called GenSpace, take workshops, trainings, or can work on our own projects!

How do you think we can help science become more accessible to everyone? The more people, both amateur and professional, who contribute to science, the more ideas will be created!


Closing Statement from Yu-An Chen

Thank you all for the comments and suggestions. I got to know a lot of new resources by going through the comments. It seems like most people will be glad to see more kitchen scientists. We can start with turning off TV and explore more about the world. Science is all around us, if one has the heart, anyone can become a kitchen scientist.

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  • Feb 10 2012: I agree with you, Sophie. I'm sure you're right about which kids are good at that kind of thing. When I was young, girls mostly didn't play with toys that taught them physics or probability or logic. They played with dolls. *ugh* So I was a tomboy! I wanted blocks and tinkertoys and trucks. And there's also watching people do things. I did that all the time when I was a kid--I'd watch my father build something, or follow ants to see what they did, or something like that. My favorite thing was to watch construction equipment, moving dirt around or laying pavement or putting up buildings. Guess what I was good at when I got older? MATH!!
    It seems like the things we learn when we're kids have a greater proportional effect than the things we do when we're older, and this makes sense, naturally, since there are fewer things in there for them to compete with! It's SO important for kids to really observe, help others do things, and do stuff for themselves. It makes me cringe to think of all the time many children spend glued to electronics, and of course they learn things there too, but they need to spend a lot more time in the real world learning things.
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      Feb 10 2012: You are so right, Jude. And you also put forth a good argument for why education should be more about experience than standardized testing .... especially in the early years.

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