Science is beautiful

A lot of things I’ve experienced in my studies recently have led to think about the beauty of science; whether when writing an essay about the modern relevance of CP Snow’s ‘Two Cultures’ or finding the most beautiful data visualisation for our practical class. Since a very early age I loved science, and every little bit of scientific knowledge gleaned has made life more beautiful (wow, that wasn’t meant to sound that corny!).

As a small, slightly hyper, child I spent a large proportion of my time exploring every inch of our garden. My tom-boy like behaviour had me squeezing through in the gap behind our garage and constructing a den. This den, my first ever lab, is where I kept buckets full of tadpoles, surreptitiously scooped from the pond, and charted their progress to maturity in a grubby notebook hidden within an old wooden school desk (few survived too long…oops).

I am very lucky to have parents that love the outdoors. On our daily walks with our gorgeous (but incredibly stubborn) golden retriever, my enthusiastic mum would explain to an eight-year-old me why flowers were the multitude of colours and even the basics of photosynthesis! Plants became even more fascinating on every single walk! The Crouches are all still unashamedly geeks to this day; when my younger brother needed to go out and collect water lice for his master’s research last year… my Mum and I jumped at the opportunity!

My enthusiasm about the natural world evolved into a passion for physiology, which I studied at university. I adored looking at the human body on a scale that we cannot even see. An enthusiastic professor once played the following clip during a lecture…

This stunning clip is of a miniscule outer hair cell from deep within your ear. There are a multitude of these highly specialised cells deep within your ear, each of which responding to a slightly different wavelength of sound, and are the point at which sound is first encoded from a wave into an electrical signal. It is the interpretation of the electrical signal generated by these tiny cells which allows us to hear sounds. Each little bit of information like this enriches the world and makes it beautiful. I think that the first 2 minutes of this clip, showing Richard Feynman speaking on Horizon in 1981, explains in a wonderfully eloquent way how this happens.

2 thoughts on “Science is beautiful

  1. I love this, Lizzie. I’m interested in “Semir Zeki’s” work to try to understand the processes behind aesthetic appeal – but sometimes I think it’s all so much more simple and elegant. The beauty lives inside the wonder. Last year I watched Brian Cox describe an equation to an audience not by its symbolism, or even its context and purpose, but by its balance. It’s inner symmetry. It’s beauty. And he – like Feynman – was right. The detail informs the wonder. But the wonder is self-sufficient.

    Steve

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