Journal about “A college student’s science books dialogue”
Journal about “A college student’s science books dialogue”
  • Cho Seung-yeun (LIFE 16)
  • 승인 2020.09.03 14:58
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Last fall, my book, A college student’s science books dialogue, came out into the world. The release of the book that had plagued me terribly for a year was an emotional moment. As I was contacted by The Postech Times, I was excited to talk about my book in writing, not in words, for the first time. 
Ironically, I started to write the book in my junior year, when my major studies were most difficult. The classics introduced in my book are books that I admired ever since I was a freshman in POSTECH: Carl Sagan’s The Pale Blue Dot, Heisenberg’s Physics and Beyond, Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Thinking about the reason I was particularly attracted to these books, I realized that they were all science classics. During the summer recess of my junior year, I considered my future careers and realized that this was the only time I could read these books. 
This is how I began to read science classics. Despite being worried about the difficulty and complexity of Physics and Beyond, the book portrayed a pretty amusing scene. Discussions between Heisenberg, a physicist who made a mark in history, and his fellow scientists at the time were described without reservation. The amazing thing was that even though it was a debate between physicists, it sounded philosophical. As such, Physics and Beyond was mainly composed of “dialogue”. After reading the book, I could understand the so-called “difficult” quantum physics as a story about an important event in history. Also, reading Lab Girl by Hope Jahren who portrays the lives of contemporary scientists, I vaguely understood life as a scientist.
It was a big misunderstanding to think that classics would exist in the field of humanities only. Reading science classics, I was able to learn about research and discoveries, not through lectures, but through books and, not through formulas and theories, but through writings and letters. Furthermore, the books offered glimpses of discoveries and theories in their early stages and also taught me what research was and what life was like for scientists. Although they may be a little arduous for readers who are unfamiliar with science or who aim to learn science, science classics offer first edition stories—not summarized nor processed—written by the scientists themselves.
Thus, I introduce a total of 18 books divided into six themes in A college student’s science books dialogue. The first chapter is “Knowing to observe things”. I present the stories of those who excelled in observation, a skill which is considered to be the most important in science. The second chapter is “Scientists writing about their lives”, in which I introduce the most interesting of the many scientists I encountered reading the science classics. In the third chapter, I talk about evolution, since it is one of the many topics that science classics discuss and is also an attractive topic that can be easily approached even by non-scientists. 
In the fourth chapter, I present studies by scholars who focused on ecosystems, a topic that is always around us but not many pay attention to. The chapter introduces Rachel Carson, who was obsessed with environmental issues, and an ecologist who studied the honeybee society. The fifth chapter is the toughest part of the book with Boltzmann’s thermodynamics, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and Schrödinger’s wave mechanics appearing altogether. In fact, writing this chapter was a mission I set for myself to study physics. Furthermore, without considering the history of physics in the 20th century, it would be hard to say that I dealt with the history of science properly. From all aspects, the chapter was essential in a book that covers science classics. 
Lastly, unlike in other chapters that explain non-fictions and real-life people, I introduce novels in the sixth chapter. I wanted to converse the charm of science fiction—a genre that has praiseworthy writers like Ted Chang and Isaac Asimov—and how science is embedded in sci-fi stories. Moreover, I fell in love with sci-fi while writing the book.
To prevent the book from being filled with deep science stories only, I included writings that realistically illustrate life as an engineering student between chapters. I explain not well-known facts about living as an engineering student, such as that engineering students write a lot during college and research, and share the knowledge that I gradually learned attending POSTECH. I also tried to find scientific elements in BTS’s lyrics with a little bit of fan spirit, so if you are interested, please read this section as well.
What I will write in the future is a lot to think about. Since I originally liked music, maybe I will write about music; since I wrote non-fiction, maybe I should challenge myself to write fiction. As I mentioned in the “Engineering Students Diary” section of my book, engineering students, who study a variety of subjects, spend a lot of time in laboratories full of instruments and reagents, and swim in the sea of research papers, may find sources of inspiration in various places. Therefore, from now on, I want to gather inspiration from the knowledge and experiences I gain from studying, researching, and meeting new people. Finding ideas in everyday experiences as a researcher would also be nice. I am already looking forward to how the results will come out.

Author of A college student’s science books dialogue