When Did Science Rock Your World?

The wonderful thing about science is the way forces us to re-order our view of the world and our place within it. Tell us the first, last, best, or worst time that science shocked you.

I remember the first time a piece of scientific information gave me pause. I was still in elementary school, and along with most of my classmates had yawned my way through the teacher telling us about the billions and billions of stars in the universe. The word ‘billion' meant almost nothing to me, and everyone knew there were a lot of stars. It was easy to see, just by looking up.

I didn't come to attention until I heard the teacher make an off-hand comment. The sun, she said, was a medium-sized star. Immediately, a worried murmur traveled around the classroom. Sure, we could accept that there were other stars out there, but I think we all were sure that we had the biggest. Maybe we were spoiled kids who figured we had the best of everything, or maybe we just assumed that since the sun was bigger than all the other shiny things that we saw in the sky, it had to be the biggest shiny thing anywhere.

I think, though, that we were experiencing for ourselves what Western Europe experienced when Copernicus knocked the earth out of the center of the universe or Darwin made the human race into just another struggling animal species. The biggest was the best, to us, and didn't we have to have the best? Didn't we have to be circling the most impressive thing the universe had to offer?

The hard truth was that it wasn't all about us, and we didn't get to plant our flag in the most special thing in the universe. We had to change our conception of the cosmos, shape it until the sun, the thing that our entire world revolved around, was just another star among, yes, billions of others. That was the first time science fundamentally changed the way I looked at the world.