Day 1: the questions

Each year, I ask students to tell me what they think is the most important and the most interesting question in science. I use it to shape what we do in class. This year, I got more diverse answers than ever, perhaps because I did it as a think-pair-square-share exercise and then used the hand of god (a random number generator) to call on students.

This is what the hand of god looked like:
hand of godA good teachable moment on what random looks like (it never looks random – note the complete absence of hits in the left hand portion). I will get back to the issue of the predictability of random later in the semester.

And these are the answers we got:

Most important scientific questions of the age:

  • How can we prevent climate change?
  • Why can’t we cure cancer? Why can’t we cure diseases?
  • What happens when resources run out?
  • How did humans come to be?
  • How many animals on earth?
  • What is deep space? What are black holes?
  • Nature or Nurture?
  • How can we regenerate cells, limbs?
  • How can we predict natural disasters earlier?

Most interesting scientific questions of the age:

  • Is flossing important?
  • What is life like on other planets?
  • What are the causes of mental illness?
  • How can we better use our minds?
  • Is it possible to reach a peak level of immunity?
  • Was the land covered by the sea?
  • Is the globe warming and is it due to humans?
  • Why do different people react differently in different situations?
  • Where does evil come from?
  • Will humans evolve in the future?
  • How can we use genetic engineering to benefit us all?

Class: please email any questions that you want to add to this list.

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