Late last night I watched the end of a wonderful documentary from the BBC called Dragons Alive. Although Mai didn’t really want to discuss it at 12:30am, it really got me thinking about the nature of curiosity and its importance in how we advance science and through it, society.
Most awesome advances in science seem to come through people asking seemingly child-like questions. Some of the ones presented at the end of the show were great examples.
One that really struck me was about crocodiles. We all know they live in stagnant water quite happily. How do they live there without getting sick? If you’d have asked me, I would have guessed it was the tough outer skin. But the question that should have been obvious to us all is why don’t they get infected and die when they get injured? If we exposed our injuries to stagnant water, it’d probably be the end of us.
There has been lots of work on that over the last few years and it looks like it’ll yield antibiotics stronger than anything we’ve ever seen before.
But the interesting question isn’t the specifics of this case, it’s why we haven’t asked that question before and what we need to do to encourage people (particularly children without preconceptions) to ask “dumb” questions.