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Seeing ang hearing.

Weekly R and R, raves and rants that is.

I’m always happy that Philstar has a sort of weekly dose of science from scientists themselves. Also, Rappler had been busy with some island science for the last couple of days. Here goes my R and R.

Collagen and scurvy

Somehow, I don’t know how to react to this article from Philstar (click here). It’s like attending a lecture class in chemistry. Oh wait! IT was supposed to be a lecture note in chemistry, right?

There are the two things that came to my mind after reading the notes. No, it’s neither about scurvy nor wrinkles.

First. While I have to admit that I can endure reading this kind of article (Have you heard about how wonderfully readable the classical mechanics book of Goldstein is? Yeah, it´s a myth.) and I, most of the time, like to read this kind of article, I wonder what possible engagement does it want from its readers. Is it just FYI or Maám wants to talk to me, personally?

And second. I always encourage my fellow scientists to write, to communicate their science and I laud scientist who tried. However when we write, there is one very basic question we need to answer: Are we possibly alienating more people, not with the science but by the manner with which we communicate it? I have lost a lot of friends by not asking this question to myself by the way. Balance I guess, is the solution.

“Kiko and Stitch”

Rappler gave me my happy island science news for the week (click here). There are three things to emphasize here:

1. “We need not look far for expertise, we just have to believe in our own scientists,” Soriano said

2. Pulling expertise from different fields could hasten the pace in which things are done.

“The team included physical oceanographers Dr. Cesar Villanoy and Dr. Laura David from the UP Marine Science Institute; Engr. Roel John Judilla and Engr. Jaylord Jauod from the School of Mechanical Engineering, Mapua Institute of Technology; Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan, Marine Ecologist from DLSU; and Dr. Prospero Naval from UP Dept. of Computer Science.”

Smiles. Courtesy: Rappler.

3. Good science although a local solution, is still good science.

Which brings me to a depressing science story (ies) also courtesy of Rappler (click here and here).

Dishearthening cool science

If I were a kid living in Matnog (Sorsogon), what could be my reaction after reading this article?

“Ang galing naman nya! Sana ako rin nakatira sa Amerika.”

The first sentence is filled with admiration. The second is loaded – maybe a little anger, maybe a bit of sadness but certainly there is hopelessness. Two things: 1) He doesn’t believe that he will prosper in his current situation; and 2) Only people in America can live their dreams. He thinks of getting out of the country so that he can let his kids dream, abandoning his own. (While certainly not really such a bad thing, but that’s a different story.)

Am I the only one with this convoluted thinking? It is a bitter fact that children in the islands are at a disadvantage compared to kids in developed country. (A lot of heroic souls are trying to do something about it.) In writing successful Filipinos abroad who didn’t live the typical Filipino lives of stinking toilets in public schools or of the usual 2 hour trek (or in the case of Matnog, an hour boat ride or swim) to school, what value could these articles have?

I have said it last week: The value of this article for the Philippines, I believe, is that given the right training and stimulus, Filipinos can also be good in science. Nothing more.

Oh yes! These articles are supposed to inspire. Then why am I not inspired? I guess I just feel unattached.

Whatever happened to finding people like the Filipina who proved Einstein right or the Filipina who wants to put ‘chorva’ in Oxford English Dictionary?

How about writing about that guy from Ilocos who is in an international debate about ‘time’, or that guy from Odiongan (Romblon) who is solving complex biology problems with math? Since I don’t want to be accused of being parochial, how about that guy who went to a public high school in Manila and is now dean for Science in NYU or that guy from Cagayan de Oro who is an Astrophysicist working in Trieste, or that lady from Batangas who plays with DNA and RNA in Cornell?

There are many examples whom a kid in Matnog can relate to. Granted that these people have enormous talents, they have even more tremendous determination. The one that makes a mountain a molehill.  Try looking at their tracks and back stories. It is written in the scars of their hearts as P¡nk would say er sing.

Mountains versus mole hills. Which one is which?