Simple Doesn’t Mean Easy

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It’s tempting to think that science only asks the most difficult, intricate questions possible. After all, why else do scientists need all this fancy mathematics and incomprehensible jargon to get their work done? Let alone all the laboratory equipment and computers and gigantic telescopes.

It’s true that scientists often ask highly refined questions, but that’s different than intricate. And said science is almost universally motivated by the most simplest questions you could possibly ask.

If you’ve ever looked up at the night sky and wondered how far away are those stars and blobs of gas, then you’re in the company of almost every single astronomer. And asking that simple question over and over and over again has let us to not just map the solar system but our Milky Way galaxy and the large-scale structure of the universe itself. A very simple question.

If you’ve ever looked at an animal and wondered why it looks like that, then you’ve joined the ranks of biologists around the world. Who, over the course of centuries, asked that question over and over and over again. That question led to the realization that changes in species occur because of natural selection. A very simple question.

If you’ve ever thrown a ball and wondered why the ball moves the way it does, congratulations you’re now a physicist. By asking that question over and over and over again, scientists over centuries went from Galileo’s experiments with inclined planes to Newton’s laws of universal gravitation all the way to Einstein’s theory of relativity.A very simple question.

I didn’t say these questions were easy to answer though. That’s a totally different story. In all the cases above it took centuries of dedication, hard work, and slowly growing our understanding to arrive at the conclusions and powerful theories that we have today. And it required fancy laboratory equipment, powerful computers, and giant telescopes to answer those simple questions.

And yet, the questions stayed simple. So if you ever think science isn’t for you, or science is beyond what you can possibly wonder about the universe, think again. As long as you can ask very simple questions, you can think exactly like a scientist.

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