Have you noticed something in the air? The whiff of acetic acid, the buzz of electrons, the spark of firing action potentials? The socially incompetent Beaker-like klutz who’s suddenly the life of the party? We certainly have: science is back with a vengeance and we’re positively charged (yes, pun intended) that people are once again excited about science.
This is what we think it’s all about: because our world is more chaotic, uncertain and – with global warming – more fragile, we want to understand, control, and preserve it. So we turn to the only way we can: rationality and science. Or really to Brian Cox. Sure he’s young, astronomically attractive for a physicist, and has a pop chart single to his name, but it’s no accident he’s a national hero. The atheism debate ignited by Richard Dawkins, and recently perpetuated by Alain de Botton, shows how science has replaced religion as an entity to be revered, almost worshipped. Just look at Jason Silva’s bombastic videos about philosophy and physics. It’s exhilarating, almost cultish, but you can’t help but get sucked in.
Because of technological advances, science can now answer and reveal the most mystical questions of the universe – like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN explaining how it all started, the Cassini mission showing Saturn’s splendour and neuroscience unravelling what makes you you. These are questions that every respectable spectacle wearing chic geek asks, meaning the media thrives from the labs’ success and we all lap it up. Science is capturing the collective conscious imagination en mass (and yes, the ‘e’ is purposefully left out) to the extent that tattoos of Jesus have been replaced with tattoos of a double-helix.
Because science fiction now becomes reality at the speed of light we bask in the thrilling sensation of living in an Isaac Asimov imagined world. So we’re set ablaze just by the possibilities of Microsoft’s Kinect, by Apple’s latest gadget release, and the first flight of the Virgin Galactic.
Because tech is cheap – and with TED and Wikipedia et al, the internet teaches all – garage science is the norm. 3D printers will soon be everywhere meaning you can soon create the unimaginable in your very own kitchen. Already this year man sent a rocket to space. And in this case, ‘man’ was 2 seventeen year olds, the rocket was home-made and piloted by a legoman – and was created in a suburban Canada backyard.
Because culture responds to culture, and after climategate there’s no choice but to better communicate science – comedians like Matt Parker, artists like Katie Paterson (exhibiting now incidentally at the Haunch of Venison), institutions and organisations like the Wellcome Trust, Super/Collider and Guerilla Science are now curating and creating around science, propagating messages that are more engaging than a blackboard.
We love science once again because it makes us dream, it transforms dreams into life, and it explains why we even dream in the first place.