fatcamp7798 to Indi, Jarv, John, Ken, Vicky on 12 Mar 2012. This question was also asked by madasrabbits.
Vicky Young answered on 10 Mar 2012:
I think you have to be very luck (or extremely clever) to say that you have changes to peoples lives with the science that you do. Most scientists make such small discoveries and changes that they are not noticed outside the science community. But overall science has changed peoples lives drastically in the last 100 years. Its given us the ability to travel, communicate, cure diseases, eat better, live better, electricity, heating. The list is huge.
Its good to know that today you live better, eat better, travel better and have better medical care than King Henry the VIII. That’s all down to science.
Indi Ghangrekar answered on 10 Mar 2012:
I don’t think that I have directly contributed to people’s daily lives but that aspect is certainly something that interested me about science – that we can try to understand the universe around us and have a positive effect where possible. And even though a large number of scientists probably cannot say that they’ve directly contributed to people’s daily lives, it is a legacy you leave behind in the work that you do. So, hopefully, the work that I’ve been involved in will someday contribute to daily lives because it will be expanded further by others.
There is a very famous phrase – ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ which was something that 17th century physicist Isaac Newton said. Newton’s work contributed to some of the most fundamental physics principles (gravity for example) and he was humbly saying that the discoveries he made were because he had read the work of others before him – meaning that one person cannot do everything, because of the work of others before him he was able to build upon it and take it further.
Jarvist Moore Frost answered on 11 Mar 2012:
To be honest, not much, yet! First I’d just like to say that the general idea of science is that we are increasing the body of knowledge for all humanity. Built into the scientific method is the plan of freely sharing our experiments and discoveries. Proper science is always done this way, and is has to be – simply because it’s so tough! A human lifetime of work is insignificant compared to the total body of knowledge we’ve developed. No one person could possibly ever hope to comprehend even a tiny fraction of everything we now know. Yet as just one person you can still extend that frontier of knowledge, just that little bit, a bubble on edge of a bubble on the edge of a bubble of everything we know!
I think it’s also pretty impossible to predict when and where anything you’ve done may be useful. Certainly looking back in history, there’s loads of scientists who’ve spent their lives working on things that at the time were useless and irrelevant to what was going on in the day. But long after they died, it’s turned out that their work was the missing piece in the puzzle to something that’s gone on to improve everyone’s lives.
Ken Dutton-Regester answered on 12 Mar 2012:
I think everyone else has pretty much nailed this question. Basically it comes down to the nature of scientific discovery- it’s not always easy. To talk from a cancer perspective- did you know how long it takes to develop a new drug for cancer? Roughly anywhere between 10-15 years!! And during this process it has taken hundreds of researchers each contributing their bit to get the drug tested to make sure it works and that it is safe to use.
This being said, there are some examples where a researcher’s work can directly contribute to a normal person’s daily life. To take an example from my field (which I wasn’t involved in), researchers have found that the use of sunbeds significantly increase your risk of melanoma, particularly for those below 35. This research has led to new regulations (including bans) regarding the use of UV beds in the UK, and in turn, this practice is beginning to get implemented in parts of Australia. This is a great example of how research has contributed to a person’s daily life.
In regards to my research, I have been involved in some important discoveries which will ultimately have significance for those who get melanoma (so a small proportion of society). Specifically, this is discovering new genes that are involved in melanoma, of which, once we find them, can act as new targets to develop new effective drugs in treating the disease.
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