As part of the four session long Intensive Bootcamp on Reading, Writing, and Pedagogy, the new cohorts of the Book Bus instructors were asked to reflect on their personal educational journey. Below is an essay written by one of the instructors:
I bet everyone in the world has gazed up at the stars at some point in their lives thinking about our position in the universe and the reasons for being alive. I also used to sit at the roof and look at the stars, identifying constellations, hunting for meteor showers, and searching for shooting stars. I was a normal kid from Nepalgunj, with a not-so-normal passion. Although I was academically strong, my knowledge of the world was quite limited. I wanted to explore everything in the world with a scientific approach. My story is the story of transformation from ignorance to awareness – through scientific knowledge – that brought a shift in perspective towards the world.
I was interested in science from an early age. I watched any documentary, any science show, in fact, any show on television that was remotely related to science. I made sure I watched all I could. However, my real journey began during the eighth grade. Those were the days when the phones with physical keypads were quite popular. Those were the very first days I got access to regular internet. It opened a whole new world of possibilities in front of me. I was able to look for anything that interested me.
One day, an article on the web caught my eye. It was about a cloaking device, a device that made things invisible, just like magic. However, as it is said, science is magic unless understood. The device used a combination of four lenses, placed a certain distance from each other, and anything kept within them vanished when viewed from one side. Fascinating, isn’t it? I was so intrigued by the simplicity of the device that I intended to make one by myself. However, a lack of materials at that time hindered me from making it possible. It did not, however, limit my curiosity. Instead, my curiosity multiplied.
This was the beginning of a profound change within me, a change that would take me out of the narrow syllabi of school to the unending adventures of the scientific marvels in the universe. I started visiting the website in which I had seen the news about the cloaking device, scouring for new articles. I was not disappointed. Soon, I learned some of the most interesting advancements in science in every possible field. I knew about stars and galaxies, protons and neutrons, quarks to quasars, the standard model, relativity, gene editing, 3D printing, mechanics of the world, interesting reactions, mind boggling numbers, technological advancements, and so on.
All this brought a certain kind of transformation in me; it made me more aware of my surroundings and led me to question everything around me. However, what inspired me the most was a quote from the physicist and string theorist Brian Greene, who said, “When kids look up to great scientists the way they do to great musicians and actors, civilization will jump to the next level”. It gave me a reason to get interested in science. It was no longer about personal gain, but for the betterment of the entire world.
In the search for knowledge, I realized the meaning of John Wheeler’s words, “We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance”. The more I knew about a certain topic, the more questions it raised. One such topic that I still want to know more about is ‘String Theory’, which says that every matter is made up of vibrations of one dimensional strings. The theory attempts to explain basically every particle and every force in the universe. Some of the biggest experiments currently ongoing in the world are associated with its proof. It is easily one the most awe-inspiring topics in modern physics.
I also stumbled across modern day problems such as climate change, global warming, overpopulation, and pollution. The thing that I understood very early on is that only with science and scientific knowledge can we tackle these problems. In fact, we were unaware of these situations until we employed the scientific method to study them. It is true that science itself is one of the causes of these problems but in fact, it is our ignorance that has led to most of it.
During those school days, I asked my science teacher a lot of questions regarding everything I read about, whether it was about the standard model or benzene, quarks or pulsars, the butterfly effect or the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. He was often irritated, but that did not stop me in any way. After my SLC, I pursued the science stream. It made me aware not only towards the world’s beauty but also the reasons behind them, and able to make predictions regarding the order of nature and the activities in the universe.
Being aware of the world around us and keeping up with the pace of time is equally important. As Carl Sagan has said, “We live in a society exquisitely dependent upon science and technology, where hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology”. I believe that that should change, especially in our Nepali society, which is the reason why I chose computer engineering for my further studies.
This is my journey of becoming scientifically aware of my surroundings, which shaped me and led me to become what I am today. It made me pursue the educational path that interested me the most. It is about a wonderful journey full of inspirational, eye-opening, exciting, shocking, and mysterious moments. This is a journey that I think other people should also experience, if not deeply, then at least to some extent, for it is most important in bringing a positive change to the whole world.
Atul Karn is a Science Instructor in U.S. Embassy’s Book Bus. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering at IOE.