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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!

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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 12 2012: Hey Claude,

      You are absolutely right - in this day and age, people just don't have the push for curiosity any more. With television and all sorts of other electronics at our fingertips, we see no need to try to be creative or curious about anything; it is just so easy to flip on the television or computer and kill a couple of hours.

      In the past, before all of this technology was around, I imagine people were much more active, both physically and mentally. They didn't have any modern technologies to waste their time with, so they had to be creative.

      Since we see what is happening, it is in our power to turn things around. I have a younger brother and I hate that he comes home from school and just watches TV (at least he finishes his homework first). I make an effort to play with him or do what I can to keep him off the electronics. I haven't been too good about promoting kitchen science, but at least I am getting him off of the tv a little bit. As much as these kids like watching tv, they actually are really curious about things. All it takes is a simple experiment or idea to spark something in them, and you've got the ball rolling. Even just having them play with toys might keep their mind more active than if they were watching tv.

      As for jobs, you are right: finding a job where they can do what they love is difficult, and may at times feel impossible. Sometimes we get lucky, and other times we have to compromise, but regardless, the people that pursue their passions do seem to be happier.
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        Feb 12 2012: Hey Andrew,
        good job on keeping your brother away from the TV. It is a great start for your brother to do something more productive. Perhaps you should show him some of your area of expertise for inspiration. As for job, I feel people don't do what they love most of the time. But perhaps we can incorporate what we love into the our jobs. Its difficult, but it will inspire some creativity. For example, I work in an office and my job include checking any typo in mailing list, I am thinking writing a program that can do the job for me. It is an example of incorporating what I love(programming) into my job.
      • Feb 13 2012: My original comment was removed for violating the guidelines (which it really didn't...) so I'll try to be less blunt this time. Modified version below.

        No offense, but this is not true. I'm on the internet, procrastinating. I should be doing my physics homework. So does that mean I'm not curious? No, it doesn't. It means I'm spending my time doing something more productive than homework. For instance, in 6th grade, I taught myself programming, to the detriment of my schoolwork. I'm surprised people are taking this view here, of all places. When i'm bored, I browse wikipedia and read articles. I just read them, not for reference, just reading. Know why? (it involves curiosity, and the reason isn't that I lack it).

        I guess the original was too angry. I'm the kind of person you're talking about when you say people are too lazy. What you don't realize is that's what EVERYBODY thinks about the next generation. It's like my grandparents saying that my parents' generation had no morals because they listened to rock'n'roll.

        EDIT, responding to comments responding to me, because ted doesn't let us nest comments past 3 levels:
        I suppose what you're saying is true, but my parents didn't do anything special to me to make me how I am. Humans are naturally curious. Just because TV is stimulating and satisfies that curiosity for a short time doesn't mean it's bad or should be avoided to encourage creativity and curiosity.
        • Feb 14 2012: Hello Nolan,

          I actually think that your ideas are not as radically different from those in the previous comments as might appear at first glance. To use the Internet as an educational tool (as you have done) requires a level of maturity that many people do not reach during their time in school. You seem to be describing the mature, educated Internet user, while many of the previous commenters are talking about young, impressionable children. Is it reasonable to expect, say, a second-grader to use technology in a productive manner? In an article that I came across in Businessweek (http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/635134.html), I read that children today spend an average of four and a half hours in front of the television. I would guess that the majority of these children are blindly consuming television programs rather than actively engaging with the content to which they are exposed. While children may learn something from the television, I’m not so sure that the passive consumption of televised programming encourages creative thinking. Now, suppose a child does not learn to think creatively: can we really expect him or her to show any interest in the sciences?
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          Feb 14 2012: My first reply to you was removed too. I was thanking you for coming back and explaining how you gain scientific knowledge.

          Science is very exciting and I find flexibility is necessary to approach learning since there are many different types of learners.

          Claude makes a good point though....what do you do with the knowledge you accumulate?

          Thanks. Mary

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