Ken has expounded on my "importance of research" entry with an excellent Science Scene entry of his own concerning supercolliders and FermiLab.
Again, I know we're biased, but it reinforces my belief that we MUST encourage our students to take an interest in science and math if we want to continue to compete globally and find breakthroughs that can make huge differences in the way we live. While it may be hard to understand the immediate practical applications of such discoveries, my list of the things that we have today because of NASA engineers, and Ken's list of the applications resulting from particle physics research, show that there may be uses for these discoveries that we can't even begin to imagine at the moment.
Fostering a love for science and a curiosity about the world around them is so important for our students, especially for girls, who often are pushed unfairly into a non-scientific niche simply because of their gender. I'm grateful that my parents never saw things that way, and they are very pleased with the path I chose. My profession (Medical Technology, with a focus on Microbiology) is dominated by women, and if we didn't love science, we wouldn't be doing what we do! I can tell you from experience that a love of science is every bit as natural for women as it is for men.
To me, it's simply a matter of having an insatiable curiosity about how things work. Do you ever look at something and want to see inside it, figure out the mechanics of a machine? I do. (And remember, the human body is a machine.) Have you ever taken something apart in order to see the parts of the whole? I have. (Do not attempt this with a living human body.)
It's that kind of curiosity, that need to know--the What, the How, the WHY?--that drives the people who make amazing discoveries. It is those discoveries that make a difference in our lives. It is those discoveries, and the researchers who make them, that may very well save our planet. I also love art and literature, and those things enrich our lives, but it is the Science Geeks who will change the world.
Have you hugged a Science Geek today?