Opposites

bb- opposites

Ugg Boot Face-off

To find oneself, at 50-something, studying astrobiology (under duress) as a subject in a Bachelor of Arts (Linguistics) degree is a little discombobulating, to say the least. Particularly if your last contact with the fields of chemistry, mathematics and physics was some 30-odd years ago (and geology, never). But the university at which I’m studying crawling through my degree has a rule (which only came into effect after I started) that every undergraduate student must complete a Planet unit and a People unit outside of their stream in order to complete said degree.

So, every week this semester just past, a very grumpy band of Arts students, including me, would huddle together in the prac room, muttering furiously over concepts such as chirality; and biomarker composition; and whether the lump of rock before us was sedimentary, metamorphic or igneous; and whether another lump of rock before us was a stony, iron, or stony-iron, meteorite; and whether the earth was oxic or anoxic when another lump of rock before us was formed.

On the opposite side of the room, sat a bunch of engaged, aspiring astrobiologists, scientists and geologists, who spoke in a language even the polyglot Arts student doesn’t care much for. We were strange bedfellows; almost different species. 😀

What a discomfiting experience.

But, it blew my mind!

I learnt so much. About how far (and not) scientific knowledge has come since I was at school; why the exploration of our solar system (so what’s the big deal about a bunch of dead rocks and gassy balls in the sky?) is deeply interesting; the mysteries of the vast and strange universe that we find ourselves in; and, most fascinating of all, the extent of the microbial and extremophile world around, beneath, on, and in us. I even had a bit of fun with the Design-a-Lander-for-Titan assignment (the tutors mentioned that they were looking forward to the Arts students’ designs. Yeah, I thought, some comic relief).

There is much value in seeking out our opposites and differences in knowledge, beliefs, philosophies and interests.

What have you learnt recently that has broadened your mind?

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33 thoughts on “Opposites

  1. Good luck with the Arts degree and in particular with the Planet unit. The terminology sounds mind-boggling but I suppose if you repeat the terms and concepts to yourself slowly a few times, you’ll get it 😀 Recently I learnt at work that if you talk to customers with a smile on your face over the phone, they tend to be much more friendly 😀

  2. At lunch yesterday, we watched a 2-hour special on the History channel that dealt with rocks. It was a “behind the surface” look at our planet . . . traveling down, down, down.

    Fascinating tidbits about what’s going on underground:

    * A 78,000 sq. ft. lab that took 18 years to build ~ to study neutrinos
    * People running marathons under ground in tunnels
    * Cave jumpers with parachutes who dive into sink holes
    * An underground fire that caused evacuation of a town

    What have you learnt recently that has broadened your mind?

    * He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.

    * An open mind learns more in an hour than a closed mind learns in a year.

    • What’s beneath our feet is another entire world. Running in underground tunnels would be awfully warm, I’d imagine.

      It’s a challenge to remain open-minded and not to become set in our thinking, but we can only benefit from keeping at it.

      • They said the temp during the marathon was about 80 degrees with 40% humidity. That surprised me because every time I’ve visited a cave, it’s been quite chilly ~ about 55 degrees.

        It’s worth the practice to maintain a “maybe” mind . . . where we no longer try to convince ourselves or others that we are Knot-It-Alls.

  3. It’s all words….about the same stuff, and the stuff is so marvelous it will never be captured or imprisoned totally in any human words. But the words–especially the big unpronounceable ones— create partisans—whether mystics or scientists—-and each side thinks the other side knows less than itself. Harrumph!

  4. And while that species with access to words continues to blab on about what they know and the other side doesn’t, a micro set without, 99% of which is undescribed by those with words, continues to out-survive and out-evolve us silently in a hidden parallel universe. Ta-da!

  5. Pingback: Opposites (Cheeky Fountain) | What's (in) the picture?

  6. It’s wonderful to learn new things (new words and concepts as well). You’ll be my ‘go to’ person if I ever write a story about the universe 😀

  7. hehehe sounds like quite the experience! I have brushing up my social psychology knowledge and theories of persuasion – very disturbing the way humans take short cuts with reasoning, or lack of reasoning, in the judgements they make – I’m thinking aliens might be more sensible than the human race.

    • Theories of persuasion – hmmmm, interesting. Does Theories of persuasion = how to manipulate your fellow human beings?

      I reckon you’re right about the aliens, Gabe – reasoning humans are definitely in short supply the world over at the moment.

      • Yes, it’s what the sales people rely on to trick people. Cialdini’s ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ is a best seller which talks about the top 6 means of persuasion – really amazing stuff that everyone should know about. There is a section on hazing and initiation ceremonies in the military and indigenous cultures, that is just horrifying. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cialdini

        • An interesting read, thanks, Gabe.

          This one is really troubling “People will tend to obey authority figures”. A reminder to keep on questioning.

          If someone tries to sell me something when I’ve already said that I’m just looking or that I don’t need any help, thanks, I just walk away. Rude, I know, but so are they for not listening.

          I think that these days, in the digital age, consumers are perhaps a little more savvy about hard-sell tactics, but many still fall prey.

  8. Sounds like fun…and fun is the key to learning and discovering . In the last year, my new discovery has been to really understand and value our differences . Instead of wanting to change people, value their differences because they bring richness to our world. Far from rocks and space or maybe not.

    • Thanks. I’m looking forward to the end this year, and then I’ll probably go off and learn carpentry, or something useful like that. No more academia! 🙂

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