Taylor Gallagher

Congratulations to Year 12 Science student Taylor Gallagher

Taylor has been selected as one of 67 students, from 50 schools New Zealand wide, to participate in OUASSA for 2019. OUASSA is an advanced Science Academy run through the Otago University for Year 13 students who have a passion for Science and the potential to excel in it.

Taylor will attend two residential science camps on the University of Otago campus, a summer Science camp in January and a winter Science camp in July. For the rest of the year she will be enrolled in a Virtual Academy where she will have access to additional stimulating and exciting web-based extension material.

As part of her application Taylor had to write an essay about her thoughts on Science in the 21st century. Below is her amazing essay!

“Science in the 21st Century”

The science of the world we live in has perplexed us for millenia. No one could ever have known that the essence of everything we touch can be reduced down to the tiniest of atoms. Or, that the reason for our appearance is mainly due to twenty three pairs of sausage shaped structures. No one could ever have known without asking why. Why is blood red? Why do same-sided magnets repel? Behind the safety glasses and lab coats, that is all science is really about: the ‘why’ factor. However, it is time to stop asking why, and start asking where. Where does this fit in? Where will we go? Where is the ship taking us? Because I don’t know.

Science has changed a lot since the Classical Antiquity. During this time, philosophers and ‘scientists’ such as Pythagoras, Leucippus, and Aristotle craned to understand the inner workings of the universe on a practical and abstract scale. Their inquisitivity carried on to the 20th Century where we saw the Moon Landing, and the discovery of antibiotics. The 21st Century didn’t disappoint either, where we have already seen the discovery of water on Mars, T Rex tissue, and the advancements of stem cell research. However, in a world where we have the technology to share, like, view and discuss, few people talk about these discoveries, and this is the greatest change to science. While the content we are studying is more advanced, it is not the content itself that has changed. It is the perception of the people around us that has changed. The science nerds are rapidly being outnumbered by those who no longer appreciate the thrill and excitement that comes alongside a scientific discovery, and consequently, the media is catering to what they want to see: presidential campaigns, Brexit, and inflation. Where is the thrill? Where is the excitement? We have become so self absorbed that we have gone blind to the world around us. Yet, it is our world; we have made it so. Why do we not seem to care about it’s advancements?

The role of science in the 21st Century is self-serving. While Planet Earth may be a ship voyaging through time and space with the human race as her crew, science no longer powers her engine. That ship will no longer sail to the far off land we have always perceived as beyond the final frontier, because her engine has died. The role of science is to understand, and while we continue to poke at rocks and play with acids, we will keep understanding: we’ll do whatever makes us happy. Likewise, the ship known as Planet Earth is stuck in orbit: it can’t go anywhere. Instead, it goes around, and around, and around. It will keep going around, and we will keep learning, understanding, trialing, and forgetting. However, poking at rocks and playing with acid isn’t what makes us happy anymore. We’ve evolved into a very sad race, because for the majority, we’ve discovered everything there is to understand. If there is nothing left to understand, there is no more power to gain, so there is no ‘reason’ to be happy. Those that do remain inquisitive (and question the foundations of the world like they’re interrogating criminals) have to remain optimistic, because life can become very depressive when the people around you have stopped believing in scientific magic. Therefore, 21st Century scientists need to be profoundly vehement. They need to be eloquent communicators who care about the present and the future, and they need to have nerves of steel. Most importantly, they need to want to make people believe in magic again, because that is what science is: magic.

The greatest challenge of a 21st Century scientist is envisioning the 22nd Century. The 21st Century is proving to a be a real roller coaster. Yet, there is only one way that this can go, and sadly, the 22nd Century may not look like the wonderful, fantastical world people have written about through time. Earth will become much darker as it enters a small nuclear winter. An increase in carbon emissions will cause ocean acidity levels to rise, and oxygen levels to fall. There will be an increase of temperature, and severe heat waves will occur frequently. This may result in the mass extinction of species as habitats are destroyed by extreme, excessive heat. There will also be an increase in storm surges that wreak havoc on our land masses, and turn our predominantly terrestrial environment into an aquatic one. And this is just the effect of global warming. Not that of a potential nuclear war, or the rise of a super-mega bug. It is hard to say what we have to do to combat this, because it has been building and building since the time of the dinosaurs. There is no quick fix; no extreme makeover Earth edition. Sure, we can try and stop it from happening by utilising science more effectively, but it’s too late. It is going to happen, and it will happen in my lifetime. In order to fix this, we just need to stop asking why.

We know why this is all happening, because we are the ones that caused it. We need to start asking where, and what. Where can this be applied? Where are we going wrong? What can I do to ensure that the future of this Earth is bright? We may think we can’t change the world, and it may be cliché but cliché’s are the truth: we can change the world. We have to. We all have to be the superheroes in our own story no matter how hard it may be. We need to accept that we’ve brought this on ourselves, and we need to accept that all we have to do to change it, is to reboot Earth’s engine, and restart the magic.