Leave no scientific stone unturned

Published 6:07 pm Friday, February 28, 2020

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This past week I finished watching the first season of a delightful anime series called “Dr. Stone.” The story takes place in the future after the entire population of Earth has mysteriously turned to stone. The protagonist, Senku, wakes up more than 3,000 years in the future and sets off to revive the stone people and rebuild civilization one scientific breakthrough at a time.

Despite the very strange premise, the show was a ton of fun to watch. Each episode often contains a mini science lesson tucked into the plot. When Senku stumbles onto a mysterious village of people who live at a primitive stone age level of technology, he works to help them make things like medicine, lightbulbs, a waterwheel, and eyeglasses. By the end of season one, they’ve even worked together to build a very rudimentary cell phone! (It looks a lot different than the handheld devices we’re used to, of course.)

There’s still a very long ways to go before anyone gets close to the level of technology we have today, but it’s fun to see the characters go step by step towards that goal.

The series was a good refresher for me because I didn’t realize how much science knowledge I had forgotten from school until they started talked about things like convex and concave lenses and the history of sulfa medicine and penicillin antibiotics. There’s a lot of interesting information about minerals too, like how tungsten glows blue under ultraviolet rays.

My science classes seem like so long ago now, but I kind of wish I had my old textbooks to read more about all the different science experiments shown in the show.

I’d recommend “Dr. Stone” as a good series for anyone interested in studying science, but also simply for anyone who’s just curious about how things work and how we can use the world around us to create great things. As Senku points out in the season finale, science even makes things like art and music possible. (How can you listen to music recordings or watch TV without the necessary technology, right?)

There is so much emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in education these days, and I think that’s great because they’re important for the future. Science improves our lives in so many different ways. It would be great if we could get more kids interested in the subject, because there are plenty more scientific discoveries and breakthroughs waiting to happen, and they’re the ones who will be doing it.

You may be surprised at how one contribution can make a huge difference.

This past week, Katherine Johnson passed away at age 101. You may have heard of her if you saw the 2016 film “Hidden Figures” which shared her story to a wider audience. She was one of the mathematicians who helped calculate the rocket trajectory equations necessary for NASA’s early space missions. This was before they had computers to do the work, and during a time when she and other black women working there had to stay segregated from their coworkers. She played an important role getting several NASA missions off the ground, into space, and back again. Johnson retired in 1986.

I think Johnson’s contributions to science through her work at NASA were vital. She may not have been making all the big discoveries and receiving the spotlight, but without the correct (and thoroughly checked) equations, we wouldn’t have been able to begin exploring space.

So whether you take inspiration from fictional scientists or real life pioneers, I hope we all strive to put some focus on scientific learning. Science makes a huge impact on our lives every day, and we never know when we may make our own impact on science as well.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.