Indulge me for a few paragraphs, for I promise this has a point.

When I was little, I loved science. I begged my mother to buy me heavy hardcover books with the words “SCIENCE” scrawled out in front, like it was a big impressive declaration (Of course, my mother always bought be the kids version.) I watched “Bill Nye the Science Guy” instead of cartoons. I took all the “mad scientist” after-school programs that my elementary school offered, and built too many rockets and scuba divers in a bottle to count. I was never a science genius. It was just a subject I deeply enjoyed.

Then, as what usually happens, things changed. When I became a middle-schooler, I moved to a more competitive school and a more competitive environment, and I found for the first time the need to actually study. I read textbooks, took notes, memorised facts, prepared myself to answer all sorts of test question about what happens in this hypothetical scenario, what about in this one, etc. etc. When I became a high schooler, I was forced to read research papers, college-level textbooks, and the dry language and thousands of definitions. I was never a science genius. I couldn’t understand most of the concepts they were all throwing at me, especially not when the language used was so technical. Science wore me down. I gave up.

Science has become increasingly specialized. We have made theories about the beginning of the universe, made robots on a nanoscale level, created ultra-secure locks based on quantum computation, discovered how an atom works and how we can utilise it. And, to explain the increasingly complicated, specific concepts we invent every year, we make up increasingly complicated, specific jargon. And the more specialised science becomes, the more people left out in the dark by science, the more people confused, struggling to understand a completely different language that they simply cannot understand.

What I’m here to say is that it’s okay if you don’t understand everything right now. In fact, it’s a good thing, because it’s true. Science is the explanation of what doesn’t make sense. Learning science isn’t just about memorising terms. It is a mystery, a theory. A story.

After Isaac Newton created his laws of motion and invented the field of classical mechanics, the European world was convinced that, eventually, there would come a time when all the Earth’s movements and happenstances could be predicted using good old-fashioned mathematics. Then the uncertainty principle, the theory of relativity, the existence of the quantum showed that unpredictability is a scientific fact, for the very small and the very fast. Even then, we could predict the general behaviour of the atom, and some people believed that between classical mechanics and quantum mechanics we could find out the theory of everything.

Of course, science is far from complete. Science doesn’t tell us everything.

Have you ever wondered why the weatherman usually turns out wrong? Why when he says it will be a nice sunny hot day, you go out in short sleeves and sunglasses and get completely soaked? Because we still don’t know. “We’re better at predicting events at the edge of the galaxy or inside the nucleus of an atom than whether it’ll rain on auntie’s garden party three Sundays from now,” as Tom Stoppard wrote in his play Arcadia, because Chaos Theory states that even the smallest variation would dramatically alter the eventual consequences of the action.

Despite all the things we’ve discovered, despite all that we know, we still don’t know everything. There is a whole universe that can be explored.

Don’t be terrified by the confusing, undecipherable language and ideas that most teachers try to feed you. Don’t be terrified that you can’t understand what the textbook is saying, in this section over around here. Don’t get deterred from science just because you feel like you can’t understand it.

Science is all about the incomprehensible. Science is about the striving of trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. It’s a huge mystery.

I rediscovered my love for science when I discovered quantum physics. It’s rather strange, isn’t it? Quantum physics is a subject that is difficult to envision, that runs counterintuitive to our daily lives, a phenomenon we rarely actually see in real life. After all, how often do you find yourself seeing an object be at two different positions at once? But quantum physics affected some deep part of me I’ve forgotten.

Quantum physics is all about how the small and the fast behave in a manner often contrary to traditional classical physics. Take Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. In any normal physics class, the teacher would tell you that once you know the direction and velocity with which an object is moving, you can find out the position at a certain time. We’ve all had a textbook problem dealing with how far an object would go at a constant 5 m/s velocity in t seconds, for example. But Heisenberg stated that, for a particle, the more we know of the momentum, the less we know of the position. That rule runs contrary to classical Newtonian physics. That whole idea of randomness, of physics running counter to itself: it fascinated me. I loved it. I loved the strangeness, the difficulty, the whole idea of uncertainty.

Because that’s what I felt about much of science: I felt uncertain. I was uncertain whether or not I appropriately understood this concept; uncertain on whether I had done this experiment correctly; uncertain whether what I thought would happen would correspond to what will happen.

Life is all about uncertainty. When I discovered quantum physics, I realized that that much-repeated phrase was more true than I thought. Much of natural phenomena was in some way based on randomness, of probability, instead of deterministic prediction. That was a relieving discovery. I didn’t have to know how everything would turn out. I just had to strive to be as close as I can.

I needn’t be afraid of the difficult words and ideas, the stiff competitive environment, the endless fierce debates that eroded and chipped away my confidence and my passion. It’s natural to not know. What matters is that we try the little we can to know what is true as close as possible. I think in determined probabilities, not determined answers.

Science is all about the incomprehensible. Science is about the striving of trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. It’s a huge mystery.

We can play along and try our hand with solving it.

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