Monday, March 24, 2008

Walking the Aisle of Our Intellectual Curiosities

Today I was reading this article on New York Times where they report that Hubble has dicovered methane (a basic ingredient in the evolution of life on Earth) was found - methane plays a big role in forming carbon-di-oxide and mono-oxide which in turn play key roles in formation of life. Though the article also says that the possibility of living creatures actually existing there is very low due to one side of the planet facing a star and another side freezing all the time, the research was quite an endeavor!

And the list could probably continue: there have been so many attempts till today to harness man's curiosity to find life elsewhere in the universe. And it is immensely intriguing to us (including me) all the time! But today, a more pragmatic question occurred to me - what are we really trying to achieve through this kind of research? Is there anything substantial for the humanity as a whole, apart from nurturing our intellectual curiosities in these endeavors?

Imagine the extent of resources, efforts and money invested in these kind of broad-spectrumed research. I am somehow burdened by the thought that we could have used all these resources may be to fight hunger in Africa or to address prisoners of war at the time of Cold War or may be just to alleviate the condition of common people in Iraq.

I am not against intellectually stimulating research endeavors. I love research and have chosen it to be my way of life, and it has come to so many costs. But what I am trying to realize is, how many times before trying to reap a harvest out of our curiosity, we actually take a step back and think what impact is my research going to have on the society? What difference I am trying to make to the world?

Research is beautiful. And the way we can make it more beautiful is an ability to justify it to ourselves - a justification which would transcend our mere curiosities or our desires to tell the rest of the world that I am smart or my intellect surpasses most contemporaries.

At the end of the day, life is not all about proving I am the better one and running a marathon driven by our intellectual curiosities. We are undoubtedly the most intelligent species on Earth till date and we need not re-iterate it to ourselves time and again by striving to be better with another accomplishment which does not have any impact on the rest of us. Our interests, if goaded by a more holistic desire rather than simply to profane the person in front of us, I am sure the world would be a better place to live in. Do we then care about life in another planet then?


Uday Kumar said...

Hey...interesting blog...actually this kind of research would have more impact on the survival of human beings at a later point of time...I think that this kind of research would be more useful than most of the others...The way we are spending natural resources and killing the planet, it wouldnt be long before we are facing the threat of extinction due to lack of resources...Atleast this kind of research gives us a hope that we can find resources to sustain life , if such research continues and developments happen in that field

Munmun said...

@ Uday
Good point. However, the impact is too far to visualize - why not just make efforts to sustain life on Earth itself - like research and find alternative energy sources to combat global warming? Exploitation of Nature comes with a cost - that needs to be addressed much before we start looking outside Earth to sustain our lives. Isn't it?

Uday Kumar said...

Munmun I know that the impact is too far to visualize...but research does not consider the time at which it will make an impact...its just and when it would be used or will be used would be a point to contemplate upon after another 50 years [:)]...alternative energy sources...hmmm...I think space would be one good area to explore to find new sources of this kind of energy ...

Munmun said...

@ Uday
Yes and no. Research if prioritized can be more helpful - let's put more efforts to solve the problem at hand. I don't mean stop doing research in astronomy, I meant the allocation of resources to different aspects of research needs to be more judicious :)

A.Jay said...

That was an interesting piece of conversation uday n munmun.
if we start talking about allocating of resources for problems in hand i guess rather than pulling it from our research fields I would suggest to loot all celebrity's house cos i feel the augmenting lavish living can feed whole of africa
wat say ;)

Munmun said...

@ a.jay
LOL. well I am not a big fan of looting and so called "evening out" economic theories in the society (read, I find them a little Communist oriented :P - also sorry if I did confront someone reading this). But yeah one thing for sure, if someone earns millions with the real sweat of their brow, then it is their own money and should not be used for evening out economy. However, I would agree that people with black money (or for that sake, corrupt people) can definitely be a good source of resources (at least monetary) to handle the problems at hand !