Keep Calm and Do Science
Keep Calm and Do Science
  • Anonymous
  • 승인 2021.05.17 02:57
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The previous 17 months were beyond my wildest imagination. I became aware of COVID-19 in January 2020. What started with tens of patients at the beginning of January grew exponentially to thousands by the end of the month. At the time of this writing, there have been 152 million cases with 3.18 million deaths worldwide. (This is about the same number of military casualties in the Korean War.) Even though the first vaccines became available a few months ago, it looks like it will take at least a year and probably even more time until the pandemic ends.
But science will eventually terminate the pandemic. Compared to the Great Plague 400 years ago, we know what to fight: microscopic pathogens that cause infectious diseases. This germ theory was proven by Pasteur; the previously prevailing theory (or rather a hypothesis) was Galen’s theory of miasma, also known as bad air. The popular treatment was using aromatic herbs to counter miasma. We have come a long way since the 1600s thanks to numerous scientists whose lives were dedicated to fighting infectious diseases.
Speaking of the plague, I remember reading Sir Isaac Newton’s biography as a child and how the Great Plague influenced him. In 1665, Trinity College temporarily closed as a response to the Great Plague. In the following two years, Newton studied at his home and developed the basis of what would later become calculus, optics, and the theory of gravitation. Without doubt, these marked the beginning and formed the foundation of modern science. Even in dire and difficult times, great discoveries were made.
We are living in an era of unprecedented richness of materials, knowledge, and connectivity. Unfortunately, it is also the era of climate change, environmental pollution, and economic and political instability. People are divided according to gender, race, religion, and political views. A complex web of interests holds this fragmented society at an unstable equilibrium. They keep us from directing much-needed effort and resources to where they are needed. But some problems are more important than others since they impact the lives of more people in damaging ways and thus demand immediate solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic is one example. In times of crisis, we must find a way to set aside our differences to unite against a common enemy. And we have. We were able to develop vaccines and working treatments in record time. Some countries such as Taiwan and New Zealand have almost defeated the pandemic.
However, COVID-19 is not the only global crisis we face. In 2020, about 19 million new cases and almost 10 million cancer deaths occurred globally, according to the Global Cancer Observatory. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tells us that the total combined cost of weather and climate disasters since 1980 in the U.S. exceeds 1.9 trillion dollars. The sheer scale of such global crises makes the situation seem hopeless.
Yet we must not lose hope. What seemed impossible a few centuries ago is now possible thanks to science. Who would have imagined humans going to the moon, sending robots to Mars, and talking instantaneously with a person on the other side of the globe? Who are we to say that we will not someday reach commercial nuclear fusion, cure cancer and defy death? Then the answer is clear; we must keep calm amidst this confusion, and continue doing science.