One of the most popular TV shows of the last decade is “The Big Bang Theory”, which is centered on the lives of several scientists and a young woman who is not a researcher but who eventually gets married to one of the guys. The series is consistently good and frankly hilarious, that’s why I believe it won’t receive many awards. The ratings show how faithful its huge audience is. It also reflects the society’s fascination with science, and the belief that Science will save the world. So much so that even though there seems to be rather a large number of vampire and supernatural series, the ones connected to science and research steadily push through the ranks.
This fall season, a new “MacGyver” started, and we watched the pilot. DXS, the Department of External Services, is led by Angus MacGyver, summarily characterized as a genius who applies Science (like, any branch of it) to solve any problem. It has a lot of action with a bit of Sci-fi, with many adventures. It also shows that a researcher and a genius need not necessarily be a nerd who has no idea of what real life is about. As in many modern TV shows and movies a prominent member of the team is a computer hacker. They are all young, so the action when it comes is quite believable. One of the elite team members is a woman, also a bow to the times. Yes, women can also possess a unique set of skills. As the proverbial scientist, the hero can save the world armed with little more than bubble gum and a paper clip, plus his own vast knowledge and resourcefulness. The main factor is his readiness to act – after careful thinking and weighing of all probabilities and possibilities. So, “You are the brains, I am the brawn” from a decade ago becomes “I am the brains and the brawn”. Well, nobody said that a researcher cannot be a sportsman and a daredevil.
When can one determine if their children are destined to follow in their parents’ footsteps, and are boys more adapted to action while girls may be more predisposed to thought? Today, due to the advent on universal education and to females constituting at least half of the workforce in many countries, the chances are probably equal for the first time in human history. There are of course never any guarantees. A child who seemed endlessly fascinated in “how everything worked” may veer off in completely different or unexpected directions. Another one who never seemed to show any aptitudes may develop into an Einstein. We have no idea how the whole IT sphere may develop in the next decade, and that is exactly the same decade that our kids will spend at school. So they may graduate into the whole new brave world and choose something we cannot even envisage today as their field of research or work. The important thing is to be able to let them be, to pursue their own dreams which may not be connected to our dreams at all. One of my favorite photos of all time shows a young girl aged 4-5 staring at a scientific apparatus displayed at the St. Louis Magic House, the famous museum for children. She is totally mesmerized by all those looks and coils. What will happen when she grows up? There are no rules, we cannot make any predictions. Children are fascinated by lots of things. I have seen countless numbers of kids plop down in front of my oven watching how the mini-bagels or any other goodies gradually turn brown. When I came to primary schools to conduct a practical lesson and show kids aged 5-7 how bread was made, the whole class would settle down in front of the large cafeteria oven to watch the baking process. Children love to observe anything being made, the whole creation process. They may retain the interest throughout their lives even if they don’t remember what triggered it.
If you ever notice this phenomenon, have patience. Let them learn. Who knows, maybe they will discover a branch of Science that will eventually save the world.