About this project

Alom-Shaha-170px.jpg“Happy is he who gets to know the reasons for things”. I wish this 2000 year-old statement from Virgil was enough to deal with the question that must plague teachers all over the world — “what’s the point of this?” But, as someone who’s just returned to the teaching profession after a seven-year break, I can assure you it’s not.

I teach at an inner city comprehensive school where science, as in all UK schools, is compulsory for all students up to the age of 16. As well as trying to get my students to understand electrical circuits or Newton’s Laws, I make an effort to convey to them that science is important, that it’s something worth doing for reasons beyond the need to pass exams.

Anyone who knows me will confirm that I wear my passion for science on my sleeve, but I don’t think that’s enough to convince all my students that science is important. Nor do I think, like some in my profession, that the importance of science is implicit in the courses we teach, that it will somehow seep into my students’ consciousness through the sheer number of hours they spend doing “science” at school.

So, I’ve started this film and blog project in which I want to ask the question “why is science important?” to people who feel the importance of science so deeply that they have dedicated their lives to it — working scientists, science writers and, of course, science teachers. I’m making a documentary, funded by The Wellcome Trust, and running this “collective blog” as I work on the film. Bits from the blog will appear in the film and bits of the film will appear on the blog. The idea is that the two will inform and enrich each other.

I’m hoping that this project will help me arrive at an answer to this question; an answer that speaks to readers of this blog, as well as my students, and convinces them that science is important. Furthermore, I want this project to reach people who don’t think science is important and convince them otherwise. I want it to demonstrate that science is absolutely crucial to the future wellbeing of our world, that its contribution to culture is as significant as that of music, art or literature and, most important of all, that a sound appreciation of science is vital to realising your potential as a human being. I want this project to make it far, far easier for any science teacher to be able to answer that inevitable question, ‘what’s the point of all this?”

So please take a look and, if you’ve got something to add, please get in touch.

Alom Shaha


  1. Posted November 24, 2008 at 1:56 AM | Permalink | Reply

    An excellent initiative indeed!The cleavage in between science and humanity is painfully still there though decades have passed when C.P.Snow pointed towards a phenomenon like that.But still I would prefer to go by the side of science because this is only creative human pursuit which is largely unbiased and adopts a clear cut methodology to reach to the truth.But a lot has to be done to attract people towards a way of living with science.An initiative like this is really a praiseworthy step taken in this direction.
    We have planned a whole year of programme in celebration of Charles Darwin's bicentenary to take up this issue humbly to the Indian people why science should be important to them ! I think Charles is most befitting personality to communicate this point of view not only to Indian people but to people anywhere of/on this planet.Science is really important for many of those people who earnestly desire to free the humanity from shackles of ignorance , dogmatism and many kinds of superstitions !
    Wish you a grand success in your endeavor which in fact is not solely yours but a common cause shared by like minded people across the planet earth.But yes you are the torch bearer !

  2. Erin
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 11:48 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Science is an entirely different way of going through life, attentive to details, wondering about explanations, but also actively participating in building up theories and tearing them down.

    I wonder why things happen or why the world is the way it is- and I think about it and design experiments and get to test them. It's similar to documentarians, who wonder why people act as they do- and then film them to try to explain it. Or novelists, or anyone else that engages in a creative act to try to understand the strange reality we occupy. Science is important because it makes life interesting and somehow makes us all pay better attention to everything around us.

    MD/PhD student, spending my time wondering about itch!

  3. Randy Pelton
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 7:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Science is important for an enormous number of reasons. Some are quite practical, and others relate more to the human need to engage in philosophical musings. First the practical. Science is important because much of the knowledge uncovered by science leads to economic growth and activity. Our modern electronic world would not be possible were it not for our understanding of the quantum world. This industry alone generates billions of dollars of economic activity. Then there is the need to be an informed citizen in an increasingly complicated political society. Stem cell research, global warming, biodiversity and the preservation of species, genetic engineering. These are but a sampling of the issues we expect our elected leaders to discuss, debate and make policy about. If we want leaders who will make wise decisions we had damn well better be at least moderately informed on the science behind these matters. If not, we run the serious risk of electing to office charlatans, demogogues and the scientifically illiterate, even though they may sound literate.
    At the more philosophical end of the spectrum, science is an incredibly creative process. Being informed of science allows us to share, at least to some extent, in this creative process. Science knowledge exposes us to the awesome wonder of nature. It opens us the possibilities of imagination and exploration. It enriches our lives at a deeply personal level. Who is not deeply moved at the site of that uplifting Hubble Space Telescope image of the Eagle Nebula, the portion dubbed the Pillars of Creation? A person not moved by such images and not provoked to wonder and question must be intellectually numb, if not dead.
    Science enriches our emotional lives. My explorations into science have, I am convinced, shaped me into a humbler, more exuberant participant in life. Everytime I contemplate the mysteries that science has unraveled I am awed and inspired. Probing into nature, I find myself left breathless at times by the grandeur of the unfolding story science reveals.

  4. selina
    Posted February 5, 2009 at 3:46 PM | Permalink | Reply

    science is whack!!!!!

  5. Ian
    Posted February 23, 2009 at 7:59 AM | Permalink | Reply

    If you were to ask why science is not important, most would be at a loss to provide an effective reply. There are too many reasons and rationales for why science is important. After some thought, it becomes obvious that science is important in order to improve the communication systems that facilitate its transmission and development.

  6. advmggate
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 3:02 PM | Permalink | Reply

    all artical's are containing with full knowledge and with deep search
    thank's for publishing these article

  7. Nirmala
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 6:58 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I like science because it leads us to think hard and critically about the nature that we see around us and gives us paths to unravel many amazing mysteries that are hidden there and make use of our findings to enrich our lives and that of all animals and plants on this earth!

  8. Sally
    Posted July 14, 2009 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I am a freelance science editor, residing in Australia. I will shortly be giving a presentation about science editing to some students undertaking a postgraduate course at RMIT University in Melbourne.
    I think it is very important for science editors to understand the context of scientists, and would like to screen the youtube footage section 8 of 14 from the why science movie. I will not have internet access on the night and would very much appreciate an individual video file for this purpose.
    Of course, I will acknowledge the source.

    Kind regards

  9. Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

    वैसे लोग जो अभी प्राणियों में आराम के लिए जाँच नहीं, लेकिन इतना है कि वे आराम से रह सकते हैं जानना चाहते परिपक्व है. विज्ञान की शुद्ध भावना में है .. यह जीवन का एक प्रणाली कैसे चीजें काम है, और क्या विज्ञान हमेशा, विश्वसनीय और infallibly निश्चित किया जाना चाहिए है.

    और कुछ विश्वास करने के लिए नेतृत्व किया गया है से अधिक गतिशील है और कुछ लोगों को क्या लगता है कि विज्ञान है वास्तव में कला और विज्ञान के उपायों निश्चित चीजें और जिंदगी है. उदाहरण के लिए दवाई ले लो .. यह वास्तव में लोगों और इस के श्रृंगार की समझ अलग रूप में एक कला है क्योंकि माप की प्रणाली विकसित करने की आवश्यकता है शरीर limite है. एक वैज्ञानिक सच्चाई नहीं बनाया जा सकता है या नष्ट कर दिया, लेकिन यह है कि दुनिया गोल है और यह है कि कुछ पौधे आदि मौजूद के एक ब्रह्मांड, अब तक के अध्ययन के लिए फिर से, के रूप में है कहने के लिए कि मामला है माप की प्रणालियां विकस

  10. amy carruth
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 9:19 PM | Permalink | Reply

    i think this is so cool and science is really good.
    I seen this video clip in science and this is when we got taught about this. I seen at the end of the video what this website was and i thought i would give it a try.
    I go to the vale of leven academy and i would like to thank you for showing me amazing things
    thank you and good bye
    i will be back again to comment.

  11. Bob the Chef
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 1:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I wonder if the book "Science in Culture" by Piotr Jaroszynski would help with your project.

  12. Posted October 13, 2010 at 4:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I am so excited to have found this website... The human mind is supposed to be designed to question things, to search for what's behind, to look beyond the wall. However, the majority of people aren't like that, unfortunately. I am glad I found someone who thinks alike.

    And the quote you wrote in the beggining of your post says it all. “Happy is he who gets to know the reasons for things”


  13. sobia saleem
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 3:23 PM | Permalink | Reply

    hi!this is sobia saleem.i think scince is our life because we are uncompelet withoout scince.like we have no electricity so we waste our most time. we understand process of human life through science.we understand body structure of human being,animals,birds,plants.

  14. sobia saleem
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 3:31 PM | Permalink | Reply

    hi!this is sobia saleem.i think scince is our life because we are uncompelet withoout scince.like we have no electricity so we waste our most time. we understand process of human life through science.we understand body structure of human being,animals,birds,plants.

  15. zarmina.gull
    Posted October 27, 2010 at 4:56 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Hi!this is zarmeena gull. Science is a simple process to understand the natural phenomenones.The laws are exist in the nature and science helps us to understand these natural phonemonenon.For example snowfall is a natural happnining.
    From sargodha university

  16. Posted December 18, 2010 at 6:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    science is hard but kool
    peace out

  17. tisha b replied to comment from selina
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 3:04 AM | Permalink | Reply

    science is an every thing of onr life. it makes our jobs and more things in life. so study science for your living. take it seriously!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Jenji Henson
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 5:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you! This is absolutely wonderful, and I plan to share it with 4th graders who are just learning about science and the scientific method. I find it to be very motivating and inspiring.

    Posted September 4, 2011 at 9:05 PM | Permalink | Reply


  20. th
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 7:58 PM | Permalink | Reply

    a very good article. but there are people like this selina that are trying to act funny. stupid.

  21. Doug
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 5:52 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Bravo! Neat to see how different disciplines of science have different views on why science is important. Yet, the overall goal is the same: acquiring knowledge through experiences.

  22. Noreen Thomspon
    Posted September 22, 2012 at 3:43 PM | Permalink | Reply

    As an advocate of all scientific enquiry, I found your video inspiring and informative. However, I fear that focusing on physical sciences (biology, chemistry and physics) both in curriculum and science promotion, limits student/public engagement.

    Is it possible that the inclusion of human sciences such as sociology, psychology and anthropology is neccessary to i) engage more students/public ii) enable same to realise why and how all sciences are interdependant to varying degrees and affect us as individuals?

    A simplified scenario -

    Physical science discovers pollutants and identifies physiological effects on humans (and environment). Psychology addresses the stress factors of exposure that may lead to individual/community behavioural changes and sociology examines the impact on the exposed group/community and how it's effects ripple into society as a whole; all endeavour to negate negative outcomes and inform future practices.

    All sciences contribute to evidence for and against many aspects of our lives, encourages questioning of ourselves; our responsibilty towards each other; our communities and humanity as a whole; our planet and the universe.

    It appears that physical scientists are somewhat reluctant to accept social sciences as valid; this is likely due to the difficulties of studying the human condition when scientists themselves are human whereas physical scientists are far less likely to become emotionally attached/judgemental about their objects of study; apart from financial agendas that are becoming more frequently recognised as having an negative impact on scientific research.

    I aspire to a future when all sciences will operate with equal respect and collaborate openly and honestly for all our benefit.

  23. Phil
    Posted September 22, 2012 at 4:03 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Am I alone in being saddened that this question even needs to be asked?

  24. Peter Breuer
    Posted September 22, 2012 at 8:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Science is to find out the truth.

    Without the truth, you can know nothing real. You might as well never cease dreaming.

    Pardon my grammar.

    The scientific method is about being systematic, careful, and forming hypotheses about the way reality works and testing those hypotheses, always with an eye out in future for something you may have missed. Just like debugging computer code, in fact, except it takes physical effort.

    As to why it is important, it is at least as important as knowing how to walk, talk, breathe and eat, which is good enough for me. If you think knowing how to do those things is important, then you should think that knowing how to do science is important. The question is simply a non-question.

    Perhaps a better question is "why is science more important than football".

  25. P
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 1:10 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I suppose that having to ask this question is rather depressing, as it illustrates a greater point.

    Science is not important - at least not to society itself. There are always other more pressing needs. War, money, mindless accumulation of possesions.

    We live in an age, where the more complex the technology we use, the less most people want to understand them. Have you ever tried teaching kids science? Have you ever tried talking about science to adults?

    I've taught children, I've worked as a post doc and I'm tired of constantly fighting to be able to teach and to be able to do research. Science has the capacity to terraform deserts & planets, build self assembling machines, explore the very edges of our universe.

    I'm tired of seeing people's eyes glaze over when you show excitment regarding the underlying complexity of the universe. I'm tired of having to fight with MTV for kids attention; I'm tired of having to constantly fight for Project funding while seeing trillions spent on the financial bailouts.

    Science is for the statistical outliers, for those of unusual curiosity and intelligence, for those of us insane enough to do something we so desperately love :)

  26. Dr Ian McLauchlin
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Reply

    There are many reasons.
    Science teaches rational thought. It teaches logical analysis. It teaches how to test ideas. It shows how to see through irrational arguments and how to rebuff them. It shows how logical thought processes can lead to a better understanding of the way the world works.
    It is the basis of all the good things we take for granted in our lives. Light and warm synthetic materials. Microelectronics - mobile phones, computers, televisions, radio. All of the following rely on science for their existence - central heating, water on tap, medicines, anaesthetics, surgery, transport, electricity, magnetism, nuclear power, wind power, process control equipment, weather forecasting, ebooks, planes, jet engines, application of mathematics, rocketry, astronomy etc. The list is endless. None of the above, and many many more, wouldn't exist without scientists finding out why and how things are like they are, then applying that knowledge for the benefit of mankind.

  27. Aaron Narayan-Taylor
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 6:04 PM | Permalink | Reply

    In the words of Carl Sagan,

    "In the hunter-gatherer, pre-agricultural times, the human life expectancy was about 20-30 years. That's also what it was in Western Europe in Late Roman and in Medieval Times. It didn't rise to 40 years until around the year 1870. It reached 50 in 1915, 60 in 1930, 70 in 1955, and is today approaching 80 ( a little more for women, a little less for men). The rest of the world is retracting the European increment in longevity. What is the cause of this stunning, unprecedented, humanitarian transition? The germ theory of disease, public health measures, medicines and medical technology. Longevity is perhaps the best single measure of the physical quality of life if you're dead there's liittle you can do to be happy). This is a precious offering from science to humanity - nothing less than the gift of life."

    Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World

  28. rebeccazg
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 7:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

    ..because it is a point of view that seeks to unravel mysteries of the physical world... because it is a point of view that is able to solve its own mysteries, in a way that may be solved again, by the same method, by a different person, in a different place, at a different time. And nothing else can do this.

  29. Dr. Clyde Davies
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 11:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I am reminded of Richard Dawkins bringing to light a glib, dismissive review by A.A. Gill of a program on the discovery of pulsars:
    ""Science is constrained by experiment results and the tedious, plodding stepping stones of empiricism ... What appears on television just is more exciting than what goes on in the back of it ... That's art, luvvie: theatre, magic, fairy dust, imagination, lights, music, applause, my public. There are stars and there are stars, darling. Some are dull, repetitive squiggles on paper, and some are fabulous, witty, thought-provoking, incredibly popular ..."

    Well, bollocks to the fairy dust. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who scandalously did NOT get to share in the Nobel Prize for that discovery, looked at her 'dull, repetitive squiggles' and saw an incredible story unfolding. She knew that because they emanated from the region of a supernova remnant, that they were probably associated with the corpse of the star that generated it. Also, they were very regular so the object that generated it by rotating like a lighthouse had to have a very high mass. The shortness of the pulses also implied that the object was very small (since no object can turn itself on or off in a shorter time than it takes for light to travel across it) and therefore very dense. She had found the first direct evidence for the existence of neutron stars.

    We have since been able to imagine what such a star would do its surroundings. Its magnetic field would be so strong that were it orbiting the Earth at the distance of the Moon it would wipe all our credit cards. It would also stretch hydrogen atoms to ridiculous lengths and split photons into matter and antimatter. If its crust underwent an earthquake the gamma rays generated would probably sterilise planets for light years around.

    All this was worked out from a few squiggles. Science uncovers stories beyond the imagination of the most fertile literary brains: it adds a totally new dimension to our own imaginations. And it certainly shows up the mind of a television critic to be shallow, mundane and very dull indeed.

  30. Posted September 24, 2012 at 9:20 AM | Permalink | Reply

    A most interesting website with lots of common sense about the vital
    role of science education in all our schools and universities.
    The truth of science will set us free from the false beliefs that
    are prevalent in many areas of the world,so let us all embrace the
    truth of science to put the world to right and benefit all.

  31. Posted September 25, 2012 at 5:47 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Came across your wonderful short film on the Guardian website.

    I'm not a scientist/science teacher but I do find science utterly compelling and inspirational as a writer.

    One thing I think about is how science transcends ages and gives one the ability to experience the future whilst having a finger on the pulse of the past - all lived in the now.

    Kindest, Rachel

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