Let’s say that you are 34 years old and a perfectly good adult who draws a complete blank when wondering what science and research are all about. Even though you passed all the required science courses in school, you view scientific research as something of no concern to you, and scientists as weird creatures from another planet.
Right now, you are.fascinated hy the idea that asteroids might be harvested for their contents by some sort of rocket ship. Many different questions pop into your mind, including: what are asteroids, how big are they, what do they weigh, what are they made of, do they contain gold and silver, are they radioactive, where are they found, do they have orbits, how fast do they move, do they ever crash into our Earth, are they dangerous to humans, etc.? You have read Dr.M’s basic introduction to science and research (see “Fundamentals for Beginners: What is Science? What is Research? What are Scientists?” ), but you just do not see how this fits into asteroids.
These are all good questions, and scientific research already has discovered the answers to most of them! You want to find answers to your questions, but do not know where to look. This short dispatch is just for you! I will describe below a simple general sequence of first steps for you to find out about science studies on asteroids, or about any other subject of your personal interest. All that is required is that you have curiosity, access to the internet, and a little time; if you do not have your own computer, you can use one at the nearest public library.
A general sequence to find out about science for some subject of interest
(1) First, identify only one subject, topic, question, or controversy that has your personal interest (e.g., asteroids, global warming, gravity, nanostructures, some disease that had killed your brother when he was 29 years old, etc., etc.). This serves to focus your initial search onto a single subject.
(2) Second, search on the internet for your subject on one of the Wiki’s (i.e., direct your browser to Wikipedia, Metapedia, or any other large encyclopedia-type site); then enter the name of your subject in their search box and press return. This will display some sites covering general information for your designated subject (e.g., basic definitions, occurrence, origin, activities and effects, relationships, etc.), along with a few pictures and diagrams). Pick only 2 or 3 of these listed sites for your reading and study. This step furnishes you with an overview of the nature of your selected subject, and usually will be a good introduction.
(3) Third, identify which branches of science investigate your subject (e.g., asteroids fit into both astronomy and minerology; global warming fits into meteorology, oceanography, and physics; gravity fits into physics; nanostructures fits into chemistry and materials science; human diseases fit into medicine and pathology; etc.). Now, search either on a Wiki or on the internet for only one or 2 additional articles dealing in a general way with scientific studies of your subject (i.e., search for “astronomy +asteroids” or “minerology +asteroids”; for global warming, search for “meteorology +global-warming” or “oceanography +global-warming”; etc.). Try to find something showing and explaining what scientists have investigated about your subject and how they did their work. Now you have broken through your barrier! This third step lets you begin to learn as much as you wish to know about how scientists have worked to answer your questions through their research studies.
Go one step further for additional understanding
Although you now should have a good background, you still are missing knowledge about the individual scientists researching your subject of interest. Your understanding will be increased if you know a little about these persons. Good places to start looking are in: (1) the extensive videos and science-related materials on the website for the Nobel Prize ( http://www.nobelprize.org ), (2) the diverse topics covered by Popular Science magazine ( http://www.popsci.com ), and (3) the “News” sections of the weekly journals, Science ( http://sciencemag.org ) and Nature ( http://www.nature.com/news/index.html ). At any of these websites, you can enter your subject into the site-search box and a list of available materials will be displayed; some of these will include coverage about the activities of specific scientists. With luck, you will spot something that is quite new and interesting. Once you find a few names, you can look on the internet to see if those scientists have a website of their own; many modern university scientists do this, and include public information about all their research activities and projects.
A required postscript about Wiki’s
In my opinion, Wiki websites are a very useful starting point when utilized as outlined above. They certainly are quick and easy, but they do not always present a complete account, are known sometimes to give only approved or politically correct information, and occasionally deliver a biased or truncated coverage. Hence, you must be aware that you can be given info that is incomplete or less than totally true. If you ever need to quote something from a Wiki report, then it is necessary that you find and check the original source(s) listed and cite only those. Once, I found a most unexpected statement in a Wiki presented as a fact about a public figure I know, so I checked their referenced source and found that it said nothing at all about this peculiar statement; thus, the citation was either a mistake or a false reference, and this statement probably is not true.
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