WHEN I was a kid, I always thought I would become a scientist when I grew up. That was actually my original dream, though my paternal grandfather Lolo Nardo and my Ninang Lulu (the elder sister of my dad) thought I’d become a lawyer. Mainly because Lolo Nardo was a lawyer (he went to the UP College of Law and joined Sigma Rho), and Ninang Lulu also became a lawyer. Heck, I almost enrolled after passing the UP Law Aptitude Examination, heh But science was my first love. I actually find it somewhat ironic that I became a journalist, because while I was always an avid reader, I didn’t start writing outside school work till third year high school — and that was mainly because I had a crush on our English teacher Miss Natalie Nebit haha. I loved the young scientist’s encyclopedia collection my parents bought me and the “scientific experiments” I conducted. And in 1980, I learned to love science even more when Carl Sagan’s Cosmos started airing on TV. If you can find a DVD, get it, and get a copy of the book that accompanied the TV series while you’re at it if you don’t have one. In 2005, The Science Channel aired “Cosmos” with updated computer graphics and footage for the 25th anniversary of the series. This was truly a groundbreaking documentary in 1980, and the special effects were simply amazing. Sagan was able to make people feel the same passion for science he had. I looked forward to every episode and watched all 13 of them when they were first shown. To me, the most memorable parts would be the Library of Alexandria and the tragic fate of Hypatia; Johannes Kepler and what to me as a kid was the jarring appearance of Tycho Brahe and his artificial nose made from an alloy of silver and gold; the Ionians and the speculation on whether they would have achieved space flight sooner; Tunguska; the Voyager flight and the golden record that contains the message of the human race to extraterrestrials; and Albert Einstein and that biker in an Italian town who travelled at near-light speed and returned minutes later (in his frame of reference), only to find his friends and most people in the town dead and his younger brother now an old man. And of course, who can forget Episode XIII, "Who Speaks for Earth?" from which the video clip above was taken. You could get a transcript of that whole message from Sagan here. Over two decades later, his message is more apt than ever. You have to remember that when "Cosmos" first came out, the Cold War was in full swing, and we were basically living with the specter of World War III and nuclear annihilation. We are now supposed to be living in more enlightened times, yet it seems we’re repeating the cycle, with a looming energy crisis and, maybe, another Vietnam in the form of Iraq. It’s strange how the more things change, the more they stay the same. This blog is a reflection of this love for science I share with the other members of the Inside Science team. We hope, in our own small way, to make more Filipinos learn to love science too.
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TODAY’S world revolves around information and communications technology (ICT), with many people becoming dependent on their computers, the Internet, mobile phones and portable devices. Students are taking up computer-related courses in college after seeing the promise of fat paychecks and traveling abroad. Not since the early 70s have we seen this kind of surge in enrollment in computer-related courses, largely due to the increase in ICT requirements across industries and nations. But what few young people know or even understand is that all underlying principles behind ICT hardware and software are rooted in the most basic of all developments -- and that is science and technology and mathematics. It is the laboratory scientists and researchers who toiled long and hard to find the best type of materials and best processes to make any equipment work. Metallurgists and chemists find the right raw materials for any hardware. Electrical and electronics engineers come up with the integrated chips. Mathematicians develop the software embedded in these chips. Even environmental scientists are part of the growing ICT industry as they come up with strategic routes where huge fiber optic cables will be laid across land and sea. These are the men and women who work behind the scenes to make ICT come to life. But ICT is just one industry that benefits from researches in science. Agriculture, education, energy, medicine, earth sciences, and meteorology are just a few of the many areas where scientific research can have full effect. The list could just go on and on but the basic argument is that science and technology is a huge, integral part of society. The Philippines only has a few science and technology reporters, some of whom work for daily newspapers, trade magazines and radio. But because of the nature of science and technology as being too technical, the few articles that do come out have to be toned down to ensure they are understood not only by scientists but also by ordinary people. However, a few stories that do come out have a significant impact on many people who value the application of science in their respective industries. The Department of Science and Technology is among the most important organizations in government. Despite its relatively small budget, the DOST has been able to maintain the various projects of its almost two dozen sub-agencies. But apart from the DOST, colleges and universities are also involved in the field of research, either on their own or in partnership with the DOST. Their involvement has a particular importance in that students get to apply what they learn in school to actual practice, even as the scientific community is assured of the availability of future scientists who will continue working. There are dozens of colleges and universities, both public and private, that have a teeming population of students who want to get involved in scientific endeavors. These schools also deserve the space to showcase their work. Inside Science is here to promote developments in science and technology. It is here to encourage young scientists to be part of the community and contribute their work for the benefit of many. It is also here to ensure scientists that their work is not unappreciated. It is here to ensure that Filipinos will know that many things in their lives were made thanks to science and technology.