Why Study Science?

By Susan Baxter
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One of our reviewers tells the story of sitting in a high school calculus class as the teacher tried to answer the question, "When will we ever use this?" The teacher talked on and on excitedly about refrigerators and refrigerator design. He drew diagrams and wrote out equations. And after some time, the students (not many of whom had planned a career in refrigerator design) still weren't sure when they'd ever need to take the second derivative of a quadratic equation in their lives outside that classroom.

"Why do I need to know this?" is not an uncommon question for students to ask, especially of core subjects that sometimes seem arbitrarily imposed on a teenager. So here, just for fun, we'll attempt to provide some unique answers to that age-old question: Unless you're planning to be a research scientist for the rest of your life, when will you ever use that stuff you learned in science classes? In other words, why study science?

When you're done here, be sure to check out our reviews of the best educational science software, and discover even more amazing answers to the question, "Why study science?"

A basic understanding of physics will help you:

  • Appreciate the lack of friction that allows you to zoom down a water slide
  • Approximate the forward thrust and velocity necessary to hit your water-balloon target
  • Ponder Newton's 1st Law of Motion (particularly the way it implies that a body at rest tends to stay at rest) as you lounge under a tree on a hot summer day
  • Ride roller coasters with confidence, knowing that centrifugal force will keep you in your seat through those upside-down loops
  • Use the principle that polar opposites attract while chasing after your latest crush

With a little bit of chemistry in your brain, you can:

  • Rest assured that the gas in those neon signs are inert, and won't react with anything else
  • Use your knowledge of solvents and solutions to make the perfect glass of homemade lemonade
  • Describe your friends and your relationships with analogies based on the periodic table (Use these to get you started: "She's such a noble gas: she won't interact with anyone." "We are as compatible as hydrogen and oxygen: we fit together perfectly.")
  • Appreciate the chemical reactions that take place when you kiss your prom date

A background in basic biology will allow you to:

  • Classify and categorize any alien life form you meet
  • Attempt to recreate Dr. Frankenstein's experiments in your basement
  • Avoid poisonous plants and animals while searching for hidden treasure in the woods
  • Speculate about the possible genetic makeup of the (hypothetical) offspring of your cocker spaniel and your friend's parakeet

Why study science? Science can be fun—and entertaining! At the very least, science classes are necessary to graduate from high school and college—which is valuable by itself. But the true value of high school science courses lies in learning something about the world around you. You may not remember what transpiration means, the exact distance from the earth to the sun, or what makes a chemical bond the covalent kind, but you'll have spent some time thinking about the world around you and how it works. And some day, when your son asks why there's water on the outside of the glass holding a cold drink on a hot day, you'll know there's a reason for it—even if the word condensation escapes you.

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