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13 sad reasons why people find science boring

Feb 27, 2020Blog, issues in teaching, teaching and learning0 comments

If you had to visualize the problem of ignoring the importance of science, imagine a frog at the bottom of a well. Imagine a frog who sits at the bottom of a dry well. In his world, there’s the ground on which he jumps, the walls with which he is sheltered, the small round sky from which sunlight barely filters through. He thought that he knew everything in the world. It wasn’t until one day, after days of pouring rain, when the well filled up and our frog floats to the top. As he tumbled out, he fell on the ground next to a big tree trunk. The small round sky he knew had disappeared, and in its place was an endless blue. The frog was shocked by all the light and things he was seeing, things he didn’t know existed. 

To think of science as boring is to be this frog, sitting in his dark well. It is to be shut off from the vibrant, interesting, and complex world that we have outside. Why do we do this? If science tries to explain everything, from our existence to the environment around us, shouldn’t it be very intriguing? As Nobel prize winner and scientist Tim Hunt had said, “most of science is boring” when we don’t know what we’re looking for. 

Along with this lack of an end goal, we have here 13 misperceptions that can explain why people find science boring despite its importance.

1. There’s a lot of information

After years and years of studying, the knowledge that we have accumulated is massive. We have and are still trying to explain the wonderful mechanisms behind everything. There is so much to learn about — the human body, the earth, and the universe, to say roughly.  And the more we know, the more knowledge can be broken down into more subsections.

The details and divisions go on and on, so that we sometimes don’t even know where to start.  Because of that, sometimes we find it easier not to think about it at all. Sometimes science seems daunting, like a black hole that we’d rather avoid than fall into. 

2. The information is complicated 

Not only is there a lot to know, most of the information on science is not easy to understand. More than just the complicated names used in science — a daisy is classed as bellis perennis — the fact that complex processes intertwine and happen at the same time requires great patience and perseverance to get through. The learning may be frustrating, but understand that you don’t have to know all at once. Break the information in bite-size portions or lessons which are to be taken day by day — it’ll make it easier to digest! 

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3. Reliance on the internet

It’s not easy to admit, but the internet makes us rather lazy. Technology takes away so much of the tasks that we used to do. You can even not type your queries into Google as speak to Siri or Alexa instead. We don’t need to know roads when we drive because the GPS will guide us. Similarly, we don’t need to learn science because whenever there’s something you need to know, you can search it up. 

It’s convenient and it’s great, but it doesn’t help us intellectually. Science is important not only because it tries to explain the world to us, but it also helps us develop our minds. And the internet can be a great help if you know how to use it right. We can search for answers so easily, if only we remain curious. Too often, we’re reliant on the internet to just give us a simple answer, rather than try to understand matters. 

4. Our attention span is short 

If you are a teacher, and not just that of children, you’ll know this. In classes, students remember best the things taught within the first 15-20 minutes of the lesson. In everyday life, posts and advertisements have on average 8 seconds to entice viewers to click on it or go one reading. That’s apparently less than a goldfish’s attention span! With such short time periods, how can ordinary white-board lessons deliver complex scientific knowledge to students? It can hardly happen before the students are already distracted. 

That’s why colorful and creative presentations of incredibly wondrous mechanisms, like through animation in this Kurzgesagt video, is crucial in capturing people’s attention, and showing fascinating and useful knowledge. 

5. The outbreak of spamming content 

We are exposed to so many distractions in this digital age. Many people can hardly get through a movie these days without checking their phone once or twice. And movies are supposed to be entertaining! Imagine what it would be like for a nature documentary, which most wouldn’t class as entertainment. Instead of focusing on something worthwhile, we’re easily swept away by rumours and clickbait. 

6. We forget that science is helpful and also interesting

Is science just for researchers and producers? Would an average person care about forces and friction? An assumption we often make is that no, most of us don’t need to know about science in everyday life. But scientific knowledge can affect our everyday life. Surely, you struggled to open a jar of sauce or pickle at some point in your life. You’ll see that sometimes people recommend using rubber gloves or wrapping a cloth around the lid to open it better. Why? Because do so increases the friction between the glove/towel and the lid, thus adding a force against the one that’s keeping the lid stuck!

This is just one example of how science can be useful in your everyday life. There are many more that you can learn and helps give sense to the things that you do in your life. Science not all about the complicated graphs and chemicals!

7. Asking the wrong questions

Not everyone needs to ponder the reasons why diseases start, or how we can travel to another solar system. Without such understanding, we can still live our lives all the same. Additionally, to know the answers to those complicated questions requires a lot of time and effort. Most of us will easily find ourselves bored or tired half-way through the explanations.

Thus, instead of getting caught in big questions, we can ask smaller, more relevant ones. Try to find out why wearing two thin layers of clothes is warmer than one. Or ask why we feel so drowsy after a heavy meal. These are matters that directly affect us and so are easier to understand and remember. 

8. The memory of science in school

We all did science in school, and not many of us go on to become scientists. Why’s that? It’s because what we are shown in school often fails to foster curiosity in us. With textbooks and complicated diagrams, we often find ourselves dozing off or thinking about what we’ll have for dinner when during classes. And this perception that science is boring easily follows us from childhood to adulthood. 

The problem here is often about presentation. If science was shown to us in a more engaging, interactive, and lively way, many more of us will probably be interested. Maybe not so much that we become scientists, but enough that we want to find out more on a casual level. If we can incorporate moving images, such as this video, to make information transmission more active, students will grow up enjoying science more. 

Find out more about animation in science education here:
>> How make scientific subjects fun

9. Lack of engagement

Another thing about a lot of casual scientific learning is that it’s all about being told what the facts, laws, and theories are, but hardly being shown them. Remember your time as a child, and the excitement you can get out of a lab experiment? Sometimes it’s caused by the thought that there might be an explosion like on TV, but most of the time, we’d love to see the things we read about happen before our eyes. 

Of course, not every process can be watched with naked eyes, but those that can should be. Experiments like the mentos-CocaCola volcano are cheap and fun, and will no doubt spark a love for science. Other than that, things we cannot observe can be shown rather simply described in texts for us. It’ll get us more engaged and curious

10. The emphasis on professional science

One obvious point that has been implied a few times is that science is associated with scientists and difficult problems. We think that scientific knowledge is limited to the difficult question, and that other things don’t matter as much. Science is all about scientific papers and breakthroughs, right? 

Not necessarily. As with many other fields, science can only develop when there is a community of researchers to think and challenge each other. We need more people who are interested in science, and a society that’s curious and well-informed would likely produce more scientists. But not everyone finds their first spark with this discipline in big questions. Children are often intrigued by the little things. And if the community around them show that there are answers to these little questions, they will grow up more likely to take an interest in the discipline. 

So yes, scientific research is important. But it all starts with the smaller issues and more mundane knowledge. 

11. The “nerd” tag 

Along the same lines, our culture makes science seem boring, especially at a young age, because society values social prestige. Movies, books, and school culture often make fun of children who are interested in science, labelling them as nerds and geeks, showing them as socially “uncool”. Somehow, curiosity for this valuable subject is considered a negative quality to have. And so many young children, who are easily affected by media representations, are discouraged from developing an interest. 

12. We disconnect science from creativity 

Often, we think of science as laws and rules. We assume that the discipline is strict and methodical, and all about the numbers. This is rather misleading, since the essence of this field of study is actually creativity. It sounds strange, since so many of us separate these two, as some would in terms of the left and right brain theory

Perhaps when you start learning about science in school, that assumption seems true. In art class, you are given more leeway to imagine things. In science and math class, there are formulas and laws that you have to use and follow. But in reality, scientific breakthroughs throughout history occurred when people think out of the box. Remember Galileo and his theory that the Earth was round? He was being the odd one out, because the whole world then thought that the Earth was flat! 

13. Science is perceived to be “cold”

Back to the issue of humans, we have the misunderstanding that scientists are cold, antisocial or dry. More commonly, we assume that they are calculative and rational, as if they are less sensitive to emotions. That also makes us dismiss science. 

But such a judgement is faulty. Scientists are just humans — they joke and laugh and cry, too! They’re passionate about their subjects, just as much as an artist might be about painting. Thus you may want to think of science more as a subject just like art, and let go of these perceptions that separate this subject from others that we are often passionate about. 

In conclusion 

And there it is, those are the 13 reasons as to why the importance of science is overshadowed. A lot of it comes down to the image that we have of this subject and the people who have an interest in it. Perhaps the solution lies in better representation and better understanding of science and its uses. 

If you’re interested in how representations can be changed for the better, check out some of the articles below. 

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