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科学家是怎样“炼”成的?
What Makes a Good Scientist?
2020/7/1 9:27:08 来源: 世知网

By Clara Ma

高娥梅 译

提起华裔女孩马天琪,相信很多人都会想起那个给美国好奇号(Curiosity)火星探测器命名的11岁小学生。如今她已大学毕业,成为一名气候科学家,研究地球大气层中被称为“气溶胶”的微小粒子。本文分享了马天琪年少时与科学结缘的小故事,总结了她心中的一名优秀科学家所需具备的特质。用她的话说,那些造就一名真正意义上的优秀科学家的特质实际上也会造就一个优秀的人。


Clara met engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the rover Curiosity was built. Below: Clara’s signature on the rover.

The first science project I ever did was in fifth grade with my partner, Delaney. We looked online together for ideas and came up with an experiment to slide marbles down a ramp covered with different-textured materials. Our project was torn to pieces by our teacher. Our procedure wasn’t thorough. Our hypothesis could’ve used some work. She told us we should consider waiting another year to enter the science fair. I felt so discouraged.

That night, I folded up our poster and started thinking about all of the things I could do differently the next year. I wanted to find a topic I cared about, one that interested me. As a budding pianist, I was curious about how the piano I practiced on for five hours every week could make the sounds that it did. I learned about something called “sympathetic resonance,” a phenomenon that allows strings to vibrate together when played. I built my next project around this and ended up getting first place at the science fair the following year.

My name is Clara, I am 22 years old, and I am a climate scientist. Today, I study tiny particles called aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere—the layer of gas that surrounds our planet and helps keep it warm.

In the decade since I did my very first science project, I have wondered a lot about what it takes to be a good scientist. To me, what makes a truly good scientist is what makes a good person.

Patience

A good scientist has patience—patience for others, patience for herself or himself, and patience when things go wrong. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work on a NASA asteroid-sample retrieval mission called OSIRIS-REx. The spacecraft launched in September 2016, headed to the asteroid Bennu. Late last year, finally, it reached its destination. In four years, OSIRIS-REx will bring a piece of the asteroid back to Earth so that scientists can learn more about it.

Scientific discoveries do not take place overnight, and many are small and gradual. Missions like the one I worked on often take years to complete. Success almost never comes quickly or easily. Chances are, you’ll stumble many times before you find your footing. And that’s OK. Learning is messy, and making mistakes is a part of it.

Being Open to Others

A good scientist is open-minded. It can be easy to ignore people you disagree with or to assume the worst about them. But we should be open to ideas that are not what we expected when we set out. We should take the time to consider other people’s opinions, even when they conflict with our own.

There is so much we don’t know, but we do know some things. We live in a world where knowledge and uncertainty can and do coexist. As scientists, we should have conviction in our work while learning from our errors. As people, we should have both confidence in ourselves and humility as we move through our lives.

Curiosity

Of course, good scientists are driven by curiosity. But curiosity does not have to be limited to science. When we are curious about other people, we can become more compassionate. When we are curious about other perspectives, we can become more understanding.

After all, it costs nothing to be kind to someone—at school, at the grocery store, with your friends, with your family. A kind gesture can make someone’s day, even save someone’s life. You never know what people are going through unless you take the time to find out.

The story of learning is a long one, and whatever you end up doing—whether or not you choose to become a scientist—you are already a part of that story. You are what keeps it going, and you will be what moves it forward.

So, in the meantime, ask questions. Ask questions about things that aren’t going to be on the test. Ask questions about everything. Ask your friends how they’re doing. Ask yourself what makes you feel alive. Above all, make sure to pay attention to the world—and the people—around you.

Curiosity is not and never will be something to be ashamed of. Curiosity is our superpower. But it’s also what makes us human. All we have to do is ask.

来源:《英语沙龙》(原版阅读)2020年第6期


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