June 29, 2012 1:24 pm

Inspiring the Next Generation

I love being part of an organization that is devoted to inspiring people to become more interested in science, especially children.

After I first met Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, at the recording session where Neil interviewed Adam Savage, I was walking down the street with this big, goofy grin on my face. I was thrilled that a famous astrophysicist like Dr. Tyson had taken the time to talk to a kid like me about science and history.

And then it hit me: Wait, I’m not a kid. I’m 50 years old. But I felt like I did when I was young and still dreamed of becoming an astronaut.

How many of us had that dream, or dreams like it?

Saturn desk lamp made by the young Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson made this handmade wooden desk lamp of the planet Saturn in the 7th Grade.

Science is the realm of both what is real and what is possible. It has experimentation and exploration baked into its DNA. And whether we are inspired to look outwards by astronomy and astrophysics or inwards by quantum mechanics and biology, science can inspire us to dream and turn those dreams into reality like nothing else mankind has created.

When we reached out to our fans for questions they’d like us to ask GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, one of the responses we got on Facebook was from Michael Rafales:

“As a teenager, it was not my school but it was Wu-Tang who taught me the idea of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. It was because of this idea that I went into physics. I am now a High School science teacher with a passion for sharing my love of science and improving scientific literacy. (I still listen to Wu-Tang of course) I have no questions for the GZA, but I do have sincere gratitude and admiration for him; as do I for Neil deGrasse Tyson. Dr. Tyson and The Genius together!! This episode might just make me cry. Thank you both.”

Fanning the flames of scientific interest in society is important, but when we inspire the young, the results can be astounding.

Back in May, Shouryya Ray, a 16-year-old Indian-born student in Germany, solved two of Sir Isaac Newton’s fundamental particle dynamics equations that had remained unsolved by scientists and mathematicians for over 350 years. (You can read more on the Huffington Post.) Ray is quoted as ‘attributing his accomplishments to “curiosity and schoolboy naiveté,” in refusing to believe that the problem was unsolvable.’

We recently got a message from an 11-year-old StarTalk Radio fan who runs her own online newspaper, does her own research on dimensions and string theory, describes herself as a future astrophysicist, and “thinks StarTalk is one of the greatest podcasts ever.”

Her own research on dimensions and string theory?

This is what happens when you inspire the young: they inspire you right back.

What about you? Who inspired you to become what you’ve become? Who are you inspiring? Please share your story and inspire us all in the StarTalk blog comments below.

–Jeffrey Simons

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