I’m a Loose Bolt of a Complete Machine

As a Yale graduate student, I’m very infrequently privy to knowing when awesome speakers are going to appear on campus and display their brilliance upon us through the media of speech.  Yesterday, however, I was actually lucky enough to attend a talk by Ira Flato, host of NPR’s Science Friday – a piece that’s aired every Friday as part of a larger show Talk of the Nation.  It’s basically his job to convey important scientific revelations to a “lay” public as far as scientific knowledge is concerned.  He came to Yale to convey the importance of science in the public arena and how in today’s society, the “news” is delivered to us on cable TV by an industry fueled by and owned by the entertainment industry…thus making the “news” these days synonymous with that – entertainment…Science, as well as most other important topics like politics, economics, and social affairs, once considered newsworthy, are being disregarded in place of things like celebrity feuds and nonsense that can appeal to the lowest common denominator – lazy Americans…us as a society would rather lose themselves in other peoples’ lives as opposed to caring about anything that would actually be considered newsworthy.  Jessica Simpson’s weight gain and Christian Bale’s psychotic episode take a back seat to issues like the war in Iraq, or global warming or the current economic crisis or things that actually effect the world as a whole.  We live in an escapist realm where what we value has been so distorted by an elite society and pundits made to sell bizarro, radical, unimportant controversy that it distorts so extremely what’s actually relevat and important.

That aside…Ira Flato asked us all as a group of educated scientists to be able to perform one task – Explain what we do, as scientists, in one minute, to someone who has a non-science background.  It’s something I struggle with every time I meet someone new.  They ask me what I do.  I tell them I’m pursuing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering.  They ask me to elaborate.  I tell them I’m in the field of Drug Delivery.  Immediately I see in their mind them picturing me pushing QPs of heroin or coke on a street corner or in some shady motel.  I mean, Drug Delivery means nothing to someone not in the field that isn’t down and out right sketchy…and illegal.  That’s obviously not what I do…but how do you tell someone that what you do involves “polymers” and using them as “vectors” to more efficiently deliver pharmaceuticals, that may not actually be potent or effective if delivered otherwise for the purpose of treating cancer or gene therapy applications?  It’s just as tough of a task as actually getting up in the morning with that as a goal for the end of the day.  And trust me – it’s not an easy goal to have in mind.  It seems to me like it can be one step forward for every two steps back.  A hard thing to keep on doing.

And at the end of Ira’s talk the idea of creation vs. evolution came up somehow…I’m not sure how…It’s funny because I’ve actually heard a segment where Ira interviewed a famous paleontologist whose argument was something like this – I am a scientist, I believe in evolution, but I also believe in creation.  How is this the case?  I believe in creation because if some higher power was to in fact create a system to further development of beings – evolution would be the perfect one to do so….So there you have it – some higher being G-d may have you, created the system of evolution…Faith is science and science is faith.  And to tell you the truth, it’s how it feel sometimes.  I make nanoparticles.  I’ve done it may times.  It’s a procedure that’s been optimized and is easy.  Anyone can do it.  But at the end of the day all you end up with is a white looking powder.  You take it on faith sometimes that in fact that powder is composed of something much more – tiny, nano-sized spheres full of whatever it is you’ve chosen to put in them.  Something that could cure cancer or could help someone somewhere down the line…that’s why you get up everyday and do it…again and again.  Sure, science has helped us out in the form of microscopy – if you need to check yourself you can actually look at these spheres under 40,000x magnification and see that they in fact exist…but some part of you, even with the concrete evidence of a photographic, takes it on faith that that’s what’s there.

And where am I going with this?  I’m not sure…to tell you the truth I had a rough, drunk night.  I saw the last boy I actually really had some undeserved faith in with another girl tonight – he said “It is what it is.”  And maybe that is in fact the case…the world “is what it is.” and we should stop asking for answers that our beyond our scope of perception and just accept the way things are…reject science and accept it for the ironically unexplainable thing that it is with the perceptions we were granted as human beings.  My ex-boyfriend, who I truly did love once told me a great quote – “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  And I guess that’s the point…it seems to me it’s all the same…So the question I leave you with is where does the border lie?  Where do science, religion, magic, love and the likes, where do they actually coincide, collide?  How do we reconcile ourselves in this world of science of faith, or love and heartache? Sobriety and drunkenness? I guess I don’t know…but I doubt this will be the end of my searching.

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