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An Ode To Science & The Scientific Way of Being

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Submitted by patricia_h on Tue, 2013-07-23 18:01

This is for all of you who hold onto the staunch belief that science is boring and is kept behind the walls of laboratories and between the covers of dry, boring textbooks; all of you who think science is exclusively practiced by mad scientists in white lab coats, or simply is a bunch of facts and equations that you are forced to memorize, and a category of classes in school that you are supposed to fail because it is foreign, difficult to understand, and to do well in it would label you a nerd.

If you are in this crowd, please stop. You're insulting science.

Love it or hate it, science is all around you. You live it, breathe it, and thrive in it; what do you think you are, anyway? To borrow loosely from a Fight Club quote, nothing more than some decaying organic carbon-based life form, just like everyone else. You probably even--gasp!--practice science yourself without even knowing it. When was the last time something you were using broke and you went right ahead to try and fix the darn thing, troubleshooting where the problem might have been? See what you did there? That's science -- that linear and methodical progression of rational reasoning that utilizes critical thinking and logic to garner data for a problem you can interpret.

Chances are, too, that you trust science and the fruits of its labors, to the point of taking science for granted.

You trust, for example, with a flick of the switch or the push of a button, that the light will come on and your computer will start; you trust that if you put your freshly bought flowers from the market into a vase full of water mixed with flower food, your flowers will continue to bloom and last for several more days; you trust antibiotics to heal your infections, refrigerators to keep your food cold, and washing machines to do your dirty laundry. If you look at all of this, you'll see that it's all simply biology, chemistry, physics, and--oh, what the heck--even microbiology, at play; and if you look closer, you'll realize that it's never just one type of science, i.e. just biology, or only chemistry, going on. No, of course not; that would be too simple. In real life, all the branches of science work together and intermingle with each other in harmony.

Yet despite this, we still give science a bad reputation instead of credit where it's due. Remember that part I mentioned about how we troubleshoot things we break so we can fix them, even if we may not always be successful in the end? The average individual at this day and age may not know much about the machinery they use in terms of how it's made and how it operates, yet that has never stopped them from having the curiosity and confidence to venture forth regardless at an attempt to understand. When your alarm clock isn't working, chances are, you're not going to to go off looking on Yahoo! Answers or asking your best friend for help from the get-go; more than likely, you're going to sit with your malfunctioning clock and do a series of data collection before you go figure out what your next course of action should be. And in case you don't see the scientific process that you're already engaging in here, allow me to break it down for you:

The Scientific Method

  1. Ask a Question: Why isn't my alarm clock working?
  2. Do Background Research: How do you know it isn't working?
    • The time being displayed is incorrect
    • The display on the clock is flashing (if digital instead of analog)
    • There is no time displayed (again, if digital instead of analog)
    • Any of the above, either individually or a combination of
  3. Construct a Hypothesis: Why do you think it's not working?
    • You forgot to wind it (if analog)
    • The batteries died
    • The electricity had gone out earlier (for those that plug into a socket to work)
    • It's old (more so if malfunctions frequently and you've had it for a long time already)
  4. Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment: The fun part :)
  5. Here's where you decide which hypothesis is the most likely reason for your clock not working and you go ahead to test it. Or you could even test all your hypotheses. Just be sure to go through them one at a time, and be consistent: change only the hypothesis that you're testing (your variable), and keep everything else the same. That way you'll know whether or not your hypothesis was correct, because that was the only thing that was different in each experiment conducted.

  6. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion: Did it work?
  7. So now you've done your experiment and tested your hypothesis/hypotheses. What was the result? Is the alarm clock working properly now, or is it still the same old piece of malfunctioning junk you started off with? In either case, you now have data that you can draw conclusions from, e.g. the clock is now telling the right time because you wound it up or put fresh batteries in the correct way, or the clock is still not working even after you did all that.

  8. Communicate Your Results: Now What?

If your clock is working again, you can now congratulate yourself on successfully fixing it, and go on your merry way doing other things. If not, you might consider getting a new one, or subsisting off the one built into your mobile phone instead.

If you've gotten this far in reading, you might be wondering what the point of me writing all this might be. The point is to show you that science is all around us whether or not we like it, that we ourselves are perfectly capable of conducting science in our daily lives via the scientific method; and because science is all around us and we can think scientifically, we should embrace science, trust it, and utilize it for more than just diagnosing broken alarm clocks.

Like when you're dealing with a pregnancy scare. Yeah, that.

The reason why an alarm clock versus your body might seem like such a foreign leap to you is, well, because for one thing, your body is way more complicated than an alarm clock. And depending on your culture, how you were raised, and your age, you probably didn't have the liberties of exploring the inner workings of your body like you would the inner workings of a clock. Hence, you end up knowing a lot less about your body than you would a piece of time-telling machinery. But that's okay; the good thing about living in the 21st century is that a lot of research on the human body has been done, and we now have scientific literature and known bodies (pun intended) of fact about our anatomy and physiology.

At the same time, the bad thing about being alive in the 21st century is that we have a lot of information. So much, in fact, that it's easy to feel overwhelmed and not know which sources are reliable, and which aren't. Regardless, it's important to seek out reputable and valid sources to collect information from as opposed to those that are simply fast and convenient. For more information on that topic, please check out a resource Heather has put together here. Yahoo!Answers or other unmoderated, user-based crowdsourcing sites, or a blind Google search done in sheer panic are unacceptable; if you were a scientist presenting a paper to your world-renown peers and were citing those aforementioned sources in your research, you can rest assured you will be ridiculed and laughed out of the world of scientific research altogether. Point being: if even a self-respecting scientist wouldn't touch those sites with a forty foot stick, why should you, and over a pregnancy scare? Don't you think you deserve better than that? You're better off digging around in Gray's Anatomy for that matter.

Luckily for you, your peers and loved ones, you don't have to; you have Scarleteen, at your service. If you've taken a look at Heather's "Legit or Unfit?" article, you'll see how and why our site falls under the category of legitimate sources for gaining inclusive, comprehensive, and medically accurate background information on the developing human body and its mechanics--valuable knowledge for conducting your background research as you subject your pregnancy scare to the same scientific methods we just did with your alarm clock.

Let's walk through this together again, shall we?

The Scientific Method (Pregnancy Scare)

  1. Ask a Question: Am I pregnant?
  2. Do Background Research: How Can Pregnancy Happen?
  3. Construct a Hypothesis: Why Do I Think I'm Pregnant?
    • I engaged in unprotected sex involving direct penis-in-vagina intercourse and ejaculation of semen into the vaginal canal
    • (first bullet) + I am not on any birth control and did not take emergency contraception after the incident (within 24 hours)
    • (first bullet)+(second bullet)+ my period is late
    • (first bullet)+(second bullet)+(third bullet)+ I took a pregnancy test and it turned out positive
    • (first bullet)+(second bullet)+(third bullet)+(fourth bullet)+ the doctor I went to see confirmed by positive pregnancy test
    • Any of the above, or all of the above
  4. Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
  5. OK, I'll admit: this is a little tricky; not the same as fixing a broken alarm clock. The ultimate key here is to wait. Yeah, I know: it's not fun to wait. In fact, it sucks.

    If you know you've engaged in unprotected sex with no backup options, e.g. emergency contraception and/or birth control, go ahead and pick them up if you can afford and have access to them. Caveat: both may screw up your period, which isn't going to help the situation, since the common belief is that a late period = pregnancy, when it's actually more like no period = pregnancy. But keep in mind that you're exposing your body to tested, strong anti-baby making chemicals, and so long as you do eventually start bleeding, you can't be pregnant.

    And of course, the old standby: the pregnancy test, either at home or at the doctor's office. One's a urine test, the other is a blood test.

  6. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion. Or two.

Obviously, if you do end up getting your period at some point, and all the pregnancy tests you've subjected yourself to are coming back negative, you're not pregnant.

And if the off chance that you do end up pregnant, know that it's not the end of the world, and that you do have options. Depending on your beliefs, current situation, and monetary resources, you can choose to carry our your pregnancy to term or not, and either parent the child yourself or consider adoption.

Really, you do have choices. Some choices are better than others. For example, you can choose to still freak out about a possible pregnancy even though you are on birth control, and/or took emergency contraception and/or used protection and/or did not engage in a legitimate pregnancy risk; doing so, of course, is only going to add more unnecessary stress to your body and put you into a vicious cycle where stress delays your period and only makes you more paranoid. Or you could take this is a learning opportunity where you learn to take responsibility for your actions and the consequences that come out of those actions, and adjust your future choices as needed, knowing full well that freaking out is not going to solve anything but simply make matters worse, so you don't even go there to start.

Knowing how the body works and what constitutes a legitimate pregnancy risk can be incredibly advantageous when facing a situation that is scary and unfamiliar, like a pregnancy scare. That's not to say you need to have an incredibly in-depth knowledge of the human body that rivals what PhD anatomists and surgeons know, but enough to know as a part of your background research so you can proceed to making logical decisions based on rational thought -- like a scientist.

And you thought science was boring.

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