Wednesday, May 02, 2007

7 x 6 Kept Me from a Career In Biology

Tonight was "Bones" night - and yes, I did want to watch it at first because it stars David Boreanaz, but I'm over that - it's a great show and the cast really clicks. I also look forward to "CSI" (the one in Las Vegas) and "NUMB3RS" every week. I'll throw "House" into the mix as well. I'm really happy there are more 'geeky' shows on. I hope they encourage young people to consider getting into scientific careers. It's initially what I wanted to do, even without the encouragement of prime time TV.

I brought it up in conversation with the spouse tonight, while watching "Bones", how as a child I had a very nice microscope set, an Invisible Woman, a chemistry set and got the Year Book Encyclopedia Science Year annuals. I wanted to grow up to be a scientist of some sort (maybe biology, I thought back then) and my parents were supportive. My brain however was not.

In High School came the realization that, in order to become a scientist, I'd need to really understand and do well at math. End of dream. Algebra was a nightmare. I only did well in the first part of Geometry where it's learning theorems and a doing lot of cool drawing with compass and protractor. Once we had to do the whole x and y and multiply this and divide that and square roots (yikes!), I was simply incapable of success. I didn't have the basic competency in math. Even now, remembering what 7x6 is gets me frowning. And we didn't have calculators then - I started High School in 1971.

I focused on my strengths and went on to get a BA in English in college. But I never lost my interest in science.

I have a passing acquaintance with a lot of scientific concepts from my reading, not only of hard SF, but I also keep an eye on a number of science blogs and sites. I lean a bit more to the tech stuff as it is relevant to my work but I also enjoy National Geographic (did you read about the giant mice?), Scientific American, and Nature.

I've also started reading regularly from a couple science blogs I've recently become aware of: Cosmic Variance and Pharyngula, which is one of the many blogs at Science Blogs. I hope to find more to add to my list.


serge said...

"numb3rs", yes! And I don't even understand most of what Charlie says beyond the basic concepts. But, heck, how many shows are there that make mathematics exciting?

Crabby McSlacker said...

I loved algebra, but for me it was calculus that kept me from going much further in math or science. I never really "got it," and felt uncomfortable just memorizing steps without understanding why I was doing it.

But I like hanging out with scientists, both in real life and on blogs. Smart folks.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Dawno! We have a lot in common -- we're both English majors who are also science nerds. I thought about going into science, too. Science, literature, and music duked it out and literature won, LOL!

But I keep up with science, particularly developments in theoretical physics, which I love. It's mind-blowing, to say the least! And like you, I love that there are so many nerdy shows on TV now. :)

Dawno said...

Serge - my husband is pretty good with the maths and he gets a bit grumpy now and again, but usually he's just as engaged as I am in the show.

Crabby, I can't even imagine what calculus is like. Hanging around with smart folks is how I'm trying to fight off senility - not sure it's working yet. Where did I put my glasses?

Thomma Lyn, good to see you! Music is my #2 love - I was in choir, band and in college, Madrigals. My daughter has the gene, too - and a triple threat, drama, dance and music.

Theoretical physics! Wild wooly stuff that is - I read fast but when I get to things about the "quantum foam" I slow way down, I think my lips start moving, too.

bunnygirl said...

Sorry to be chiming in so late on this!

I didn't "get" higher math (meaning anything that involved treating letters like numbers letters, LOL) until I took a logic class in college. Somewhere in the midst of all those if...then proofs, something clicked. It was quite literally a lightbulb moment, and I knew then that I could do higher math if I wanted to.

I was 28 or 29 at the time, on my second pass at my BA, so I didn't pursue higher math at the time. I didn't need it and I wanted to graduate asap. But a couple years later I was in a spot with my master's degree. I needed 3 hours to graduate, but 6 to stay in deferment on my loans. So I signed up for calculus on a lark.

Fourteen years after a struggled for a C in algebra, I pulled off a B+ in calculus with very little effort. I credit whatever it was in logic class that tweaked my brain.

For those of us who are word-oriented rather than number-oriented, logic should be our intro to math. I'm absolutely convinced of this.

Dawno said...

hiya bunnygirl! I took one math class in college - it was a course for freshmen honors, geared towards teaching math concepts to humanities students. We went to the Huntington Library on a field trip. It was one of the best courses I took. I don't remember much about the math parts, though. I do recall enjoying the statistics portion of the class - the professor made it interesting and understandable.