What does wonder have to do with a magazine for middle school science teachers?
Well, as biologist Richard Dawkins writes, wonder has for long been recognised
as the ‘wellspring of all scientific inquiry’, motivating scientists to investigate
rainbows, the night sky, and other strange phenomena. But, studies like those
of primatologist Jane Goodall’s with wild chimpanzees indicate that they too are
capable of this child-like wonder, for example, at the sight of a beautiful waterfall.
Does this mean that our capacity for this emotion is no different from that of our
closest relatives? Or that Francis Bacon was right in suggesting that wonder only
arises out of a mystified ignorance that science alone can cure? Hardly! While we
may share our sense of wonder for natural phenomena with higher primates; we
now have reason to believe that as a culturally mature species, no longer preoccupied
with the necessities of survival, we are also capable of a more evolved
form of this emotion. One that is reflected in our craving to understand these
phenomena through the unique process and perspective offered by science, or
what Charles Darwin called ‘this view of life’. Thus, far from ‘curing’ us of wonder,
scientific discoveries are themselves wondrous, deepening our excitement and
delight in the mystery and grandeur of the natural world!
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Middle school marks a period of remarkable transformation. Youngsters enter
middle school as children, full of wonder and excitement. And leave as young
adults, who with opportunities to discover the wonders of science, may be
inspired by a lasting sense of meaning for its cause. One that, in conservationist
Rachel Carson’s words, acts as ‘an unfailing antidote against the boredom and
disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are
artificial’. We see I wonder as an attempt to bring together a community of writers
and readers willing to share their experience of engaging with just such a cultural
shift in school science. One that, as theoretical physicist Brian Greene urges, ‘places
science in its rightful place alongside music, art and literature as an indispensable
part of what makes life worth living’.
Our 2nd issue is book-ended by two themes that celebrate this sense of wonder.
Interactions is all about perspective, inviting readers to view the world through
the lens of scientific explanations that unify seemingly disparate phenomena into
a seamless whole. We explore the underlying forces (The Fundamental Four and
Material Interactions) and cues (Chemical Ecology: Talking in Nature’s Language
and How to build a Nervous System) that shape the dynamics and behaviour of
systems as distant as galaxies (Interactions in Outer Space) and as immediate as our
immune system responding to the ubiquitous common cold (A Viral Handshake).
Emerging Trends in Biology, on the other hand, is more about process. How are
the big questions in Biology and breakthroughs in method shaping the scope of
future scientific inquiry and the nature of this discipline? We give you a peek into the
latest in our understanding of memories (We are what we remember), relationship
with gut bacteria (We have Company), and genetic clues to evolutionary history
(Reconstructing the History of Life).
In an on-going effort to bring new perspectives and voices, this issue also presents
nineteen new authors and three new sections – Research to Practice, The Science
Teacher at Work, and Science Communication. Go ahead - dive in! And, don’t forget
to send your feedback to us at [email protected].