With the arrival of the Apple iPad last week, it was clear that the world is in the middle of a technology boom and it was even clearer that we all love it. Whilst some couldn’t help comment on certain missing features (the web cam, the USB connector and so on), nobody was condemning the entire idea of portable communication devices to the dustbin – quite the contrary, I can almost guarantee that there will be a line around the block on the day Apple release this latest product for sale. We just love technology.
Technology such as the iPad is built on the back of fundamental scientific research in many fields, from theoretical physics to materials science – even particle mechanics and other esoteric sciences creep into the picture. Years of research in universities, private laboratories and government agencies, leading to literally thousands of scientific papers have led the way to the products that we speculate about, eagerly await announcements of and then buy in the million.
But somewhere along the line we seem to have lost our appetite for science, in fact some even look on it with disdain. In developed countries, far less students today engage in science or science based subjects in schools and universities than twenty or thirty years ago. Yet those same people crave the products that a science based education system can ultimately deliver.
On a newscast I was watching last week an excited correspondent was telling us about the iPad. Not two minutes later the same person was salivating at the prospect of “the whole global warming story collapsing like a house of cards because of the bogus science”. But the approach to this science is no different to that behind the iPad, the scientists no less diligent, the papers they produce no less reviewed, yet because we either don’t want to know about or can’t accept the findings we choose to attack the science and the scientists – not with any intellectual rigour or scientific discipline, but with slander and sometimes even abuse. I doubt the correspondent had even the remotest idea as to the years of research in atmospheric chemistry that have led to the concern about the rising levels of carbon dioxide or the detailed measurements done in laboratories for the past century on the behaviour of carbon dioxide and infra red radiation. But he loved the iPad!!
Even if we can get past the atmospheric chemistry that supports the thinking on climate change, we then run into difficulty with the solution set. Many people don’t like nuclear, yet have little or even no knowledge of the supporting science. Geological sequestration of carbon dioxide is struggling to gain public acceptance, despite the many studies done and even field tests that support its inherent safety. We simply choose not to believe that it can be right.
But we still love the iPad!