A HoTBAS Primer

I am a scientist.

And I am extraordinarily proud to write those words. Being a scientist is a noble profession: we explore the untamed wilderness of the universe and chart its rises and falls, its rivers and oceans, deserts and mountains, and those far-off distant places that exist beyond even our imagination. But scientists are more than just cartographers—we bring order to this so-called chaos, always striving to illuminate the rationale underlying this wild, most beautiful topography.

Uncovering the whats and the hows and the whys, we are the universe’s storytellers.

Of course, this is not a new endeavor. This is a task as old as the history of our species: understanding the world, giving order to the chaotic, making sense of nature, of the weather, of birth, even of death, underpins much of ancient mythology and has shaped all of civilization. We are a curious species. As children, as adults, we are continually giving a framework to all the things we observe, trying to get things to just make sense. Being a scientist is an inherently human endeavor, striking at the core of what it means to be human.

I also feel extremely lucky to write that I am a scientist. Lucky? Definitely. I have one of the best jobs in the world, a job that is so wonderful and so fulfilling that I rarely think of it as “a job”. In fact, I’ve been lucky many times over, more time than I can count—I had loving, inquisitive parents who were scientists; I went to good schools; I am funded by the U.S. government to pursue my scientific passions. And those are just the top three.

Much of the inspiration for HoTBAS came from a desire to share my joy at being scientist with other people who may not have been so lucky. With those who may have never thought about science; with those who may have not thought about science since dissecting a frog in high-school biology; with those who are curious about (but perhaps intimidated by) science; and with those who are excited at the prospect of being explorers of the universe. Everyone is a budding scientist, because we all want to understand the hows and the whys of our existence.

Of course, since everyone is a budding scientist, everyone can approach the world, the news, their own lives scientifically—and herein lies the rest of my inspiration. There is something to be said for applying the scientific method—or, at the very least, its rigor—to life more broadly. How often are seemingly outlandish claims put forward? As responsible members of society, we should ask for proof, for evidence. We should think critically about the facts put before us and hold everyone, especially our leaders, to the highest standard of truth. We must do our best to make sure we’ve gotten as close to the truth as possible.

Ideas matter.

And that’s where being a scientist comes in.

2 thoughts on “A HoTBAS Primer

  1. I agree that being a scientist is a great job — but the greatest job in the whole world is being a science writer. You get to spend a lot of time hanging out with and conversing with researchers who, as a group, are passionate about their work. And passion is a very attractive quality, no matter its object. Plus you learn something new every day.
    Lucky for me people like Olivia are at the bench or in the field!

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