Science Me! 13.8 Billion Years in The Making
Science Me! 13.8 Billion Years in The Making

The Life of Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov was one of the greatest science fiction writers in history, as well as a professor of biochemistry and a prolific author of non-fiction. His best loved works include the Foundation series set in the distant future where humans have colonised the galaxy, and a book of interlinked short stories called I, Robot which he developed into an extensive series of humanity and morality tales during the dawn of the robotic era.

Are We More Than Biological Machines?

Are humans more than biological machines? From an empirical view, we breathe, digest, grow, and die on autopilot. We are biologically programmed by our DNA, and psychologically programmed by our experiences, all of which is beyond our control. But it feels like there’s something a bit special about being human, right? Some conscious spark that makes us more than just fleshy automatons?

It was once thought that life could not be reduced to a nuts-and-bolts explanation by science. Yet that’s exactly what happened – scientists ditched the notion of a mysterious life force when it became clear that our existence is based on numerous biological, physical and chemical observations. Now, the same revolution is occurring with the science of consciousness. While plenty of laymen believe in an ethereal mind or spirit, neuroscientists are discovering clear evidence for consciousness as a physical property of the brain.

Helium Could Save Our Planet

Helium could become the clean energy source of the 21st century. Colossal reserves of the gas are waiting to be mined from the moon’s surface, and returned to Earth as a fuel for 100% green, radioactive-free nuclear power. So what are the hurdles to this endeavour? And why isn’t mainstream media screaming about this revolutionary answer to the world’s energy and climate crisis?

We’re Going Multiplanetary

Theoretical physicist and one-man-phenomenon Stephen Hawking contributed a wealth of knowledge to mankind during his lifetime. One of his recommendations was that humans would need to colonise other planets in the next hundred years to avoid annihilation. His fears took the form of deadly viruses, nuclear war, asteroid impacts, and global warming. In order to avoid another Dark Age – or altogether extinction of the human species – we need to become a multi-planetary civilisation.

The Philosophy of Happiness

Our modern culture is really bad at portraying a realistic philosophy of happiness. The picture it paints is founded on consumer-driven advertising and fictional movie portrayals of life. It tells us that happiness is hedonistic: becoming a multi-millionaire mega-consumer, having a private jet, living on a tropical beach with a cocktail in hand, and having zero life stress to upset the apple cart. What utter crap. After one month of living on a beach with a steady flow of Margaritas, you wouldn’t be happy. You’d be an alcoholic. Meanwhile all your friends would be running their busy lives back in the real world, oblivious to your sense of emotional isolation. Your days would become hollow and pointless, and you’d have nothing to talk about with your equally bored spouse. So if lavish consumption isn’t the answer, what is the recipe for happiness?

The Origins of Language

For an awfully long time, hominids lived in hunter-gatherer societies. This highly social way of living is thought to have evolved the origins of language, culminating in our species, Homo sapiens, coming to dominate all others. Was it our language that set us apart? How can we find out?

What Happened to Gene Therapy?

When we think of scientific advancement, Hollywood has taught us to envisage the obsessed scientist working alone in the lab late at night, hunched over a microscope or painstakingly pipetting chemicals into test tubes. Suddenly, one of the tubes turns green and starts fizzing and he’s got his breakthrough formula made.

Scientists lovingly call this the Breakthrough Myth.

The unsexy reality is that it usually takes the work of multiple teams of researchers, operating out of different labs around the world, over the course of decades, for new treatments to be developed and introduced safely into medicine.

How Does DNA Work?

How does DNA work – and what exactly does it do? DNA is a chemical molecule that forms the basis of all life on Earth. It stands for deoxyribonucleic acid – because it’s comprised of the building blocks: nucleic acids, ribose sugars, and phosphate groups. On the surface it’s a simple yet beautiful molecule and yet it creates the complexity of all living things: plants, bacteria, fungi and animals. The process of evolution has created some mind-boggling systems to record this biological data, replicate it in all living cells, and execute that code in order to create and maintain life. Today I want to give you a glimpse of the amazing facility of DNA. How DNA works, what it looks like, and how it replicates.

The Psychology of Facebook

Facebook has taken a lot of flack lately. First there are the revelations that most user profiles (representing about 2 billion people) have been scraped and sold for commercial and political ends. And now the very nature of social media is being exposed as potentially damaging to your mental health. So how does this work? How does a social media website cause psychological harm, when all it’s apparently doing is populating your screen with news and photos from your friends?

How Do Jellyfish Have Sex?

How jellyfish have sex is really alien and unintuitive, at least in the eyes of humans. If they had vocal chords, or brains, or cognitive processing abilities, jellies would argue that they’re an ancient group of animals who mastered sexual reproduction a long time before us, and we’re the ones who are frankly odd-balling it with our penises and vaginas and miserable, painful childbirth.

Everything You Need to Know About Elon Musk

If superheroes were real, Elon Musk would be Science Man. Or Technology Chap. Or Business Acumen Person. Either way, he’s a major force behind our industrial and technological evolution, and that’s why we should all know who he is and what he’s doing. Because he’s literally trying to save the human race.

Why Can’t You Divide by Zero?

Enter any number into a calculator and divide by zero. What do you get? UNDEFINED. What in the name of Turing’s testicles does your calculator mean by undefined?

Classical Conditioning is Power

This is my friend Sutton, who volunteered for a harmless experiment in classical conditioning. Let’s start by poking him in the eye.

Evolution 101

All life on Earth is connected by evolution. Whether you’re a marine worm or a marmoset, the same genetic code proliferates your DNA. That’s the basis of Evolution 101: an article that reveals the major steps in animal evolution. Biologists believe life began almost as soon as the environment on Earth could support it. This is backed by our molecular biology (our DNA) which exposes a common ancestry that dates back at least 3.8 billion years.

But how can dinosaurs and dandelions be related? How can human intelligence have arisen from brainless bacteria? The answer is evolution: the blind, trial-and-error process that stumbles on incremental adaptations and, over massive periods of time, builds them into the breathtaking diversity of life.

The Science of BroScience

Do you even lift, bro? This is the mating call in BroScience: those who measure their self-worth by the amount of weight they can lift.

Nikola Tesla Quotes

Nikola Tesla is sometimes referred to as the man who invented the 20th century. And why not? It was Tesla who first produced the alternating current, radio waves, x-rays, radar, hydroelectric power and transistors. Unfortunately, due to his apparent lack of commercial sense, plus some ruthless exploitation of his patents by fellow scientists and businessmen, Tesla is the most underrated inventor in history (although in running a $50 billion car company named for him, Elon Musk is somewhat correcting that).

Atoms 101

The ancient Greeks were not nearly as stupid as they looked, despite draping themselves in bed sheets for every occasion. It was they who proposed the idea of the atom, or atomos, which means indivisible. The philosopher Leucippus (back in those days, philosophers were the early scientists) said that everything is made of either tiny atoms or voids in between them. Full or empty. Solid or not solid.

Today, we know the atom is largely comprised of empty space, dotted with even tinier particles, some of which are completely theoretical. So the Greek name is a misnomer: atoms are indeed divisible, and what quantum quirks lurk within are especially unsettling.

Curtuteria Australis: The Body Snatching Parasite

This is the true story of the parasitic flatworm, Curtuteria australis. This mysterious body-snatching organism lives within multiple hosts during its lifecycle. Born as a larval worm inside the belly of an oyster-catcher bird, naturally, he soon finds himself in the faeces of the bird – and is delivered smartly onto the ground of the New Zealand mudflats.

Nanomedicine: A Tiny Robot Invasion

Nanomedicine is coming for you. In a good way. Industrial nanotechnology has already been around for a good few years - as self-cleaning paints, water-repellent clothes, glass coatings, engine lubricants and UV protection. In fact, the tiny, invisible...

Charles Darwin Quotes

Charles Darwin was a heavily bearded chap who published the theory of evolution by natural selection. Remarkably, his younger and equally full-bearded counterpart, Alfred Russel Wallace, came up with a strikingly similar idea independently. Together, they presented their theory in 1858 and Darwin expanded on it the following year in The Origin of Species.

Albert Einstein Quotes

As you very well know, Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist. He developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. On Einstein’s 72nd birthday in 1951, photographer Arthur Sasse was trying to persuade him to smile for the camera. Having already done so countless times that day, he stuck out his tongue instead. The photo became one of the most popular ever taken of Einstein. He rather enjoyed it himself and asked for nine copies for personal use. In 2009, the signed original was sold at auction for $74,324. Years later, I would illustrate this photograph for Science Me.

Who Built Stonehenge and Why?

Britain is full of ancient monuments. We practically trip over them on our morning stroll to the haberdashers. Medieval castles, Roman baths, Megalithic villages, giant hill figures: the landscape is littered with historic monuments, the most famous of...

How Old Do You Think You Are?

You may think you know how old you are. But I’m about to tell you that you’re wrong. You’re wrong. There, see? I told you. The reality is, there are a few different biological and cultural ways to measure how long you’ve been farting around on Earth.

In the Western world, we celebrate our first birthday after we’ve been expelled from our mother’s womb for a whole year. But other cultures have a different set of rules. In East Asia, the traditional method of ageing is to turn one year old on the day you’re born. This actually makes good sense because the heartbeat, brain activity and cell respiration have all been going on in the womb for eight or so months. Why not round it up to a year?

What is Schrodinger’s Cat? And Can I Pet Him?

Don't be a silly sausage, you can't pet Schrodinger's Cat because he isn't real. He's a hypothetical cat in an 80-year-old thought experiment. He was created by Erwin Schrodinger in an attempt to illustrate his objection to quantum uncertainty. But the...

Science Me – That’s an Order

Science is more than lab coats and test tubes and Einstein’s bad hair day. It’s a system of developing knowledge, based on what we can measure through direct observation. It comes from the Latin word scientia, which means knowledge. “Wait a second,” you say, “this already sounds terribly boring, just what kind of website is this?” Don’t worry, I pat you reassuringly on the head. Science comes to life when you apply these boring principles to the real world. Then you can make cool discoveries about it.

Science demands measurable data on which we scaffold our way to enlightenment. The past few centuries have seen us transform industry, technology and medicine thanks in whole to science. It’s how we’ve invented space rockets and morphine and augmented reality which makes our whole existence that much better. Imagine your day without the inventions of science. You wouldn’t get very far at all, unless you currently thrive semi-naked in the wilderness. My congratulations if you do. For narrative purposes I’m assuming you don’t.

The Four Principles of Science

1. Empiricism = knowledge comes from direct observation. There’s no scientific validity to things we can’t measure – like ghosts, telepathy and homeopathy. They might just as well be made up.

Empiricism by Science Me

2. Testability = scientific ideas are falsifiable. Scientific ideas – or hypotheses – must be framed in such a way that other scientists can verify or disprove their claims. Faith-based systems lack testability.

Testability by Science Me

3. Parsimony = avoid making unfounded assumptions. When you’re confronted with two possible explanations, choose the simplest explanation that makes the fewest unproven assumptions.

Parsimony by Science Me

4. Determinism = the universe is bound by cause and effect. Your world – down to the neurons firing inside your brain – is a complex web of interactions. Every event has a mathematically predictable outcome. This renders notions like fate, karma and even free will moot, because they imply multiple causes for singular effects, and that’s not how reality works.

Determinism by Science Me


Take a look at the world through the scientific framework. It becomes easy to debunk dead-end distractions and focus on things that are more likely to be true. A scientifically-minded society has a lot more to offer than a superstitious, indoctrinated one. So go ahead and wrangle with science, pull it apart, try to prove it wrong. See? You’re already sciencing.

“Science is different to all the other systems of thought. You don’t need faith in it, you can check that it works.”
Brian Cox, Particle Physicist and author of Why Does E=MC2? (And Why Should We Care?)

Why Fox Pokes Cats

My son, Fox, loves animals. He went through a phase of poking and pestering cats to see their reaction. Psychologists call this bottom-up processing. Make no assumptions about cats: only scaffold your way up to new conclusions.

Eventually the cat would claw at him and run away. Fox learned the cat had sharp claws and didn’t much enjoy the interaction. Now when Fox meets a cat, he doesn’t have to go through the whole experimental rigmarole of poking it senseless to see what will happen. Now he’s top-down processing: we start with an already-established conclusion.

All children adopt this scientific framework naturally, because it’s intuitive. The problem is, we get cocky. We begin to think we know everything already and get used to top-downing everything. As adults, we then fail to gather basic data in the light of new situations, and we forget our open-minded schema which would have led us to empirical truth. Science solves this by being course-correcting.

So I’m proposing we put on our science filter to make better choices: an empirical lens to navigate the media minefield of pseudo-science and ideological indoctrination. Let’s make good decisions about education, medicine, climate change, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence – any area where evidence-based science can light our way. Let’s cast off our top-down assumptions, adopt a questioning approach, and play in ways we haven’t done since we were five years old and poking cats.

“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.”
Carl Sagan, Astrophysicist and author of Cosmos

Who Am I?

My name is Becky Turner. I’m a science enthusiast living in Auckland, New Zealand. I’m 34 and getting to the point where I feel weird about announcing my age on the internet. I can almost guarantee I won’t be declaring my age when I’m 44, even though I’ll be a lot wiser and more interesting than I am now, and saying I’m 44 would really highlight that. Ageing is weird.

I studied biology and chemistry back in school. The problem was, the chemistry got really complicated really fast, and it put me off a career in science for a long time. I ended up becoming a writer instead. Years later, I would realise there are people with Chemistry Brains and people with Physics Brains and people with Biology Brains. And maybe a few other types of brains as well. The point is: you don’t have to be awesome at all of the scientific prongs to be a scientist; you just have to pick the one(s) that feel intuitive to you.

For me, that’s biology. Specifically evolutionary biology because it answers so many questions about life today, and so I’m studying a zoology degree while developing Science Me. My goal is tell the wondrous (yes, wondrous!) stories about how historic scientific discoveries were made, how they’ve changed the landscape of the world, and what we can expect from science in the future.

If you like this website and can help make that happen then contact me before someone else does / I fall off a cliff / I get pulled from the simulation for becoming too self aware. Otherwise, please enjoy the rest of this website and share your favourite posts on social media because if no-one ever reads this then I’m really just talking to myself and that’s weird.

The Life of Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov was one of the greatest science fiction writers in history, as well as a professor of biochemistry and a prolific author of non-fiction. His best loved works include the Foundation series set in the distant future where humans have colonised the galaxy, and a book of interlinked short stories called I, Robot which he developed into an extensive series of humanity and morality tales during the dawn of the robotic era.

read more

Are We More Than Biological Machines?

Are humans more than biological machines? From an empirical view, we breathe, digest, grow, and die on autopilot. We are biologically programmed by our DNA, and psychologically programmed by our experiences, all of which is beyond our control. But it feels like there’s something a bit special about being human, right? Some conscious spark that makes us more than just fleshy automatons?

It was once thought that life could not be reduced to a nuts-and-bolts explanation by science. Yet that’s exactly what happened – scientists ditched the notion of a mysterious life force when it became clear that our existence is based on numerous biological, physical and chemical observations. Now, the same revolution is occurring with the science of consciousness. While plenty of laymen believe in an ethereal mind or spirit, neuroscientists are discovering clear evidence for consciousness as a physical property of the brain.

read more

Helium Could Save Our Planet

Helium could become the clean energy source of the 21st century. Colossal reserves of the gas are waiting to be mined from the moon’s surface, and returned to Earth as a fuel for 100% green, radioactive-free nuclear power. So what are the hurdles to this endeavour? And why isn’t mainstream media screaming about this revolutionary answer to the world’s energy and climate crisis?

read more

We’re Going Multiplanetary

Theoretical physicist and one-man-phenomenon Stephen Hawking contributed a wealth of knowledge to mankind during his lifetime. One of his recommendations was that humans would need to colonise other planets in the next hundred years to avoid annihilation. His fears took the form of deadly viruses, nuclear war, asteroid impacts, and global warming. In order to avoid another Dark Age – or altogether extinction of the human species – we need to become a multi-planetary civilisation.

read more

The Philosophy of Happiness

Our modern culture is really bad at portraying a realistic philosophy of happiness. The picture it paints is founded on consumer-driven advertising and fictional movie portrayals of life. It tells us that happiness is hedonistic: becoming a multi-millionaire mega-consumer, having a private jet, living on a tropical beach with a cocktail in hand, and having zero life stress to upset the apple cart. What utter crap. After one month of living on a beach with a steady flow of Margaritas, you wouldn’t be happy. You’d be an alcoholic. Meanwhile all your friends would be running their busy lives back in the real world, oblivious to your sense of emotional isolation. Your days would become hollow and pointless, and you’d have nothing to talk about with your equally bored spouse. So if lavish consumption isn’t the answer, what is the recipe for happiness?

read more

The Origins of Language

For an awfully long time, hominids lived in hunter-gatherer societies. This highly social way of living is thought to have evolved the origins of language, culminating in our species, Homo sapiens, coming to dominate all others. Was it our language that set us apart? How can we find out?

read more

 

All artwork and content on this site is Copyright © 2016-2018 Becky Turner & Pete Casale.

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