Prof. Disbrow lists things he’ll be thinking of on Thanksgiving
About this time next week, Americans will be sitting down with their loved ones to celebrate the things that they are most thankful for.
While we’re all thankful for our families and friends, I’m personally thankful for all the things science has given humanity to enjoy over the years. Here are just a few of them, in no particular order.
Vaccines. As a child of the ’60s and ’70s, I grew up in a world relatively free from disease. Oh, sure, I would grumble and pitch a fit when I had to go see Dr. Green and get a shot, but my parents never let me miss a scheduled vaccination. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I realize now that it was because they had grown up in a time when infectious diseases were commonplace and you never knew when a friend or family member might be struck with polio or the measles. They had seen firsthand the power vaccines had to stop disease and save lives, and they didn’t want me to suffer or die needlessly.
Evolutionary Theory. Lots of folks don’t realize it, but Darwin’s Theory of Evolution underlies pretty much every aspect of modern medicine. From basic biology to heredity to gene therapy, almost nothing in the natural world makes sense without the framework of evolution to hang it from.
Space Exploration. While I’m personally disappointed that we don’t already have colonies on the moon and mars, I’m still blown away by the amazing science being done by the robots that we’ve shot into the void. Nothing fills me with more excitement and wonder than a new batch of pictures from Hubble, New Horizons or Cassini. And, while I realize now that I probably won’t ever leave Earth myself, I know that our destiny as a species lies out among the stars.
Quantum Mechanics. I’m a computer programmer by trade. If science hadn’t been able to work out the basics of quantum physics, my profession wouldn’t even exist. In fact, we wouldn’t have any of the amazing devices (smart phones, computers, etc.) that make up our modern world.
Agriculture. Agriculture is one of those things that we’ve been benefiting from for so long now, we forget that it’s actually applied science. And without it, our civilization simply couldn’t exist. (To say nothing of the big dinner we’ll be enjoying next week.)
Engineering. Cars. Phones. Plows. The Internet. The list is endless. Without engineers to apply the laws of nature that science has discovered and build things, we would literally have nothing to be thankful for.
Astronomy. The forerunner of space exploration. It’s amazing to realize all the things that we’ve learned about the universe just by looking up at the sky and thinking.
Optics. The study of light and how to manipulate it is a personal favorite of mine. Without this branch of science, we wouldn’t have telescopes, eyeglasses or fiber optic Internet connections. Without my glasses, I’d be unemployable (and probably long dead). And, without my fiber optic internet connection, I wouldn’t have access to cat videos.
Science Fiction. My first real exposure to science as a “thing,” was via the original “Star Trek.” Every week they used science and logic (and occasionally Kirk’s sexual prowess) to solve problems and save the day. Who would have guessed that, within 50 years, actual technology would have outpaced most of the future tech shown there? But, that’s what science fiction does: It inspires people to think about what may or may not be possible and then try to make it real. Usually with results far more fantastic than the fiction that inspired them.
So, as you sit down at your Thanksgiving dinner, take a moment to think about the amazing things that we all share, thanks to science and the men and women that have pursued it through the centuries.
Steven Disbrow is a computer programmer who specializes in e-commerce and mobile systems development, an entrepreneur, comic-book nerd, writer, improviser, actor, sometime television personality and parent of two human children.