Friday, December 28, 2007

Morbid curiosity

Never blindly accept what your teacher teaches you. Confirm it yourself by testing it and only then accept or reject it according to your findings.”
- Gautam Buddha

As humans, we are all born inquisitive. There exists an immense, almost inexhaustible drive to learn more about our surroundings and all daily happenings. Scientific temper is an inborn character, it not something to be learnt. Recollect how toddlers in the age group 2 to 4 years drive the parents down the bend by asking reasons for everything and anything around. This is the basic foundation of learning, to seek out for knowledge. True education of an individual starts here. However, the as we grow up this trait of ours is weakened every day either because our elders don’t have answers for our question or because they are simply not patient enough to explain everything. Then come the school years, where everything is only to be crammed irrespective of comprehension and only the ones with the best memories (read: rote power) are considered good enough. Good enough for what? I don’t know.
As student I’ve always had seemingly weird but logical queries. None of my teachers or parents answered them. They were either laughed at or I had to put up with hypothetical and even philosophical chatter. Here are some of my questions which never got answers:

1. I had once read that the rat fleas that live on rats spread plague. Now snakes prey on rodents including rats. If a snake consumes a rat, it will also consume the fleas living on the rats. Does this food chain cause plague in snakes? This was a serious question that bothered me in class 9. My teacher looked at me point blank and smiled saying it has got nothing to do with the portion! Incredible!

2. Mosquitoes spread the malaria causing protozoan parasites of genus plasmodium to humans and have caused unprecedented losses of human lives throughout history. Now a simple doubt, why don’t mosquitoes die of malaria themselves? I asked my parents and the response was like this, nature has its own control mechanisms for the human population. This is one of those. Cool! I later on found out that the Plasmodium protozoa feeds on red blood cells. The mosquitoes do not have any of their own, so they just carry they parasite without any harm to them (mosquitoes). This was in class 9 again.

3. The housefly is an insect vector for Hepatitis A. Why doesn’t the housefly die of Hepatitis A itself? Again no answers for this one. Even my zoology professor was perplexed. This man is a qualified doctor who took up teaching for the love of it. Spent few minutes pondering over it and I found the answer. You see, Hepatitis comes from Hepat – Liver and itis – inflammation. Inflammation of the liver. Now a housefly doesn’t have a liver, forget an inflammation of the liver.

These are only some of the questions I had asked in school, much to the irritation of my teachers (they always unskillfully tried to hide it). It’s the same tale in college. I am still the Mrs. DOUBTfire in class. Even have to tolerate the worst of abuses from the unintelligible members of the batch. (Yes, that’s the price I have to pay for being morbidly curious!) They say I waste time in lecture! But the dumb asses simply don’t understand that half of what we learn is when we tumble upon some other information while looking for something else! That’s exactly what happens when we ask questions. Learning is so much more exiting and enriching when we question what we learn and try to reason it out. Go ahead and ask. No matter how much someone gets irritated. Ask questions and just see how better off you will be!

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An infectiously enthusiastic incorrigible optimist, insanely in love with and morbidly curious about life, death and everything in between.