Friday, January 8, 2016

How to Raise a Scientist in the Xbox Age

I had another op-ed in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago, entitled "How to Raise a Scientist in the Xbox Age."  You can't read it unless you are a subscriber -- the Wall Street Journal is behind a paywall that makes the Berlin Wall look like a speed bump -- but the article basically details my experiences growing up as proto-scientist in the 1960s and 70s.

I did a lot of stupid and dangerous things, particularly with my chemistry set, but they were things that helped set me on the path toward becoming a scientist today. After the op-ed came out, I received a lot of letters and email from other scientists, describing their own hair-raising experiments as kids (including a nice letter from the Chancellor of Washington University!) It's amazing any of us survived to adulthood.

3 comments:

Peter Denton said...

Some version of the anthropic principle seems relevant. Presumably there are other potential scientists who blew themselves up. So only those who have some notion of how the everyday world works make it on to science. A discussion of whether this is good or bad for the progress of science is left for a future work.

Robert Scherrer said...

Yes, that thought has crossed my mind. There is certainly a selection effect at work here. Perhaps an arXiv paper for Apr. 1 is in order. You should write it.

Meredith said...

I really enjoyed your advice on this, Bob. So far my strategy has been to show how it's better to be a creator online than a consumer. I've tried to reinforce that philosophy that by giving permission, time, or materials for the former.