When most of us think about art and science, we perceive them as two separate worlds. However, according to today’s guest, Michelle Thaller, there are far more similarities between art and science than meets the eye. As a NASA scientist, Michelle’s insatiable curiosity and desire to discover fuels her, and this passion is tangible throughout the conversation.
We kick off the show with Michelle debunking some commonly-held misconceptions about scientists. From there, we turn our attention to the importance of scientific research before talking about why young people should not ignore their inner voice when deciding on a path to pursue.
Although problems such as climate change are undeniable realities, there is a role for everyone, not only scientists, to play in enabling change. Along the way, we discuss the need to push the boundaries of science, why polarization is a powerful political tool and how we can overcome it, and what we can do in our own backyard to get the needle moving on the issues that matter. While Michelle does not sugarcoat the enormity of the challenges that lie ahead for us, her message is still one of hope. She believes that by focusing on cultivating our innate curiosity, we will find the answers we need. Check out one of the links below to hear the whole episode:
You can also read my detailed summary of the full Podcast here!
Key Points From This Episode
The importance of learning for learning’s sake
Explore things like music, art, and science — even if you do not become an expert or use it directly in your career. This enrichment beyond your day-to-day life activities sparks creativity that can help address complicated problems in the future.
Why we explore the boundaries of science
To some, it may seem pointless to be sending people to space when we have problems that need to be addressed on earth. But one of the big reasons exploring these things is important is that it leads to relevant discoveries that we directly benefit from. Some examples:
1. Laptops exist today because computers had to be miniaturized to be sent to space.
2. The depletion of the ozone layer was discovered because scientists wanted to see what the atmosphere was made up of. If they hadn’t done this, the ozone would have been completely depleted and Earth unlivable by 2060.
Why we all need to be more curious
It is very difficult to hate someone if we are curious as to why they think a certain way. Curiosity leads to understanding, and we can all work to understand each other better and discover new things by being curious.
How to follow your passion while still combating the world’s problems
First and foremost, be what you would be without seeking external approval. Being genuine often leads to success. As for feeling pressured to pick a career to solve issues like climate change: All jobs are going to be necessary in the future. It may just be that your chosen career path will sometimes ask of you to work on things related to topics you wouldn’t have expected, such as climate change.
How to better support art and science
Government funds need to be re-allocated from things like military spending to bolster art, science, healthcare, etc. The idea that the funds do not exist is a myth. Art and science work hand in hand to communicate ideas that can lead to positive change, and to get more money to support this we need to be using our ability to participate in government (especially at a local level!!). Register to vote here.
“Science, has been to me, a lot more about intuition, a lot more about emotional resonance. Whether a topic seems right or a solution seems elegant is an emotional response; it’s not really a logical one.” — Michelle Thaller [0:02:44]
“I want to bring everybody along. I want to make it relevant to them aesthetically and artistically, and maybe what they call spiritually. I want people to benefit from our knowledge and inspiration that we have.” — Michelle Thaller [0:15:54]
“We need creativity big time to solve these problems.” — Michelle Thaller [0:22:43]
“There is something worthwhile in the human endeavour to explore these boundaries.” — Michelle Thaller [0:28:02]
“The enrichment of doing something different than your everyday life will allow us the creativity and the strength of integrity to tackle some of these huge problems coming up.” — Michelle Thaller [0:29:25]
“It’s a lie. It’s a lie that we don’t have the cultural resources to robustly support science and the arts and to deal with poverty and to deal with hunger. We have been fed this cultural lie.” — Michelle Thaller [0:31:55]
“I think the most underrated human virtue is curiosity.” — Michelle Thaller [0:40:54]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode
NASA High Five Fail
Charles H. Townes
Science Mission Directorate
Register to vote
Benjamin Von Wong
“White Boy Privilege”
Coming Up Next
Next week we hear from Royce Mann, an 18-year-old activist who went viral at just 14 for his spoken-word piece, “White Boy Privilege.” Check out his poem here, and subscribe here to be sure you don’t miss upcoming episodes.