Scientists don't know everything...?
Have you ever met a doctor and spontaneously asked them about your recently injured shoulder, only to be met by a blank stare and a somewhat sardonic reply like “I don’t know, I’m an oncologist”?
I think I do that with scientists sometimes. I assume because they have a PhD in science that they must have the answers to all my science questions. Ok, I know your degree is in geology, but I just want to know – what is inside a black hole and is red wine really good for you and what are jellyfish made of?
But it turns out scientists are human too! On our expedition in November, we had 26 scientists from all kinds of fields, from physical oceanography to fish physiology and avian biology. Being in close quarters for a month, they all got to learn from each other about topics as foreign to them as plumbing is to an accountant.
Every night, after the 18:00 science meeting to recap the day and discuss upcoming operations, we had a “science talk.” This was a voluntary opportunity for team members to share something they are passionate about, related to their role aboard or not. Some people went into detail on their specific interests on the project and others shared topics that were completely unrelated. Ron talked about the role of a specific type of worm in the ecology of the tidal zone in Holland. Lucia explained how the Higgs Boson particle was discovered. Nadia discussed her work to understand the life cycle of myxomycetes (slime mold).
These were casual chatting-with-a-group-of-friends style talks. Every one of them was informative and entertaining. And they offered an avenue of discussion outside of the onboard science operations that dominated most conversation. For me, it was a good reminder that scientists don’t already know everything – they’re still learning too.