Neil Degrasse Tyson, one of the world's foremost authorities on Astrophysics, rightly pointed out a divine truth and penned it down beautifully. He said, "we are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out – and we have only just begun."
In the beginning of time, there was only stardust. Through just the right, magical combination of events, a miniscule fraction of this stardust received the gift of consciousness to become us. Every atom of each of our bodies can be traced back to the universe.
We have no way of knowing yet whether we are alone in the vast expanse of the cosmos, but what we do know is that our ability to be curious is the key to decoding the mysteries of our existence – as individuals, and as a collective mankind.
Here’s why curiosity is our biggest strength:-
It’s what gave birth to civilization.
Early humans were confined to a very small geographical area because of their lack of mobility. Their desire to know what was out there led to the invention of the wheel, which is arguably the most important invention ever made. While the wheel evolved over time to be powered by animals, and eventually fuel and electricity, it is still the basic circular shape that carries us over long distances. The curiosity to explore beyond the visible horizon is what has made the world a small place, and empowered us to organize ourselves into a global civilization.
It’s what drives progress.
The Greek philosopher Plato once said "necessity is the mother of invention." If necessity is the engine that drives invention, curiosity is the fuel to that engine. When faced with a problem, we ask ourselves, "how do we solve this?" But that’s not enough to drive progress. We must also ask, "is this the best way to solve this?" Let’s elucidate this with the help of an example -
In the beginning, our forefathers faced the need for a light source at night so that they could make better use of their time. They started lighting a fire, and voila they had a solution. But wait, this wasn’t the best solution. There were too many problems - creating friction was difficult, rains extinguish fires, it could be dangerous, etc. So, they made candles, then the light bulb, and now we have a million different light sources solving all kinds of problems, because we asked "how do we make it better." Every time we identify an inefficiency, we tweak something to bridge the gap, and that’s how we progress.
It’s what gave us technology.
Often it isn’t even need, but pure, unadulterated curiosity that helps us discover something invaluable. That is exactly the case with the technology that powers our computers as we know them today. In 1800, John Dalton first confirmed through a series of experiments that all matter is made up of small invisible sections called atoms. J.J. Thompson subsequently discovered that these atoms are further breakable into sub- atomic particles. One of these particles is called the "electron," which is what "electricity" derives its name from.
Further study gave birth to a branch of physics called Quantum Mechanics which is the science behind the tiniest fractions of everything around us. This science drives technologies like GPS, lasers, MRI scanners, and even makes our online Zoom classes possible. The curiosity to know about these invisible fractions that a lot of us may even dismiss as irrelevant, gave us the technology that we cannot live without.
What we must teach our kids is that no question is stupid or impertinent. We shouldn’t shirk anything off as obvious, because we never know when the underlying principle behind something routine may unlock a larger phenomenon. Only when someone asked why the sky is blue, did we uncover the spectrum of light; when someone asked why the apple falls, did we discover gravity; and when someone asked if we can fly, did we make the airplane.
Now, when we are amidst a pandemic, let's ask all the right questions and be curious to know how we could come up with a global solution for a more sustainaible and environment-friendly lifestyle.