The Wide Angle: Excited and clueless about science

Published 6:30 am Saturday, January 9, 2021

The other day I had the absolutely fun experience of sitting down with Dr. Robert Clarke, The Hormel Institutes’s new executive director.

The purpose of our sit-down was for a profile in our upcoming Progress special section, which will be coming to you towards the end of February.

Having scientists of this caliber in Austin is a fantastic boon for this community. At the same time, it’s a reminder why over the last few years I’ve had a growing interest in science in general.

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Scientists at the institute, like Clarke and Dr. Ted Hinchclifffe, have made science available to all of us. They are open to questions of almost any kind and it’s because of this that science is so available.

It’s also because of this that our community benefits so much from having The Hormel Institute in Austin.

But listen, you’re already well aware how nice The Hormel Institute is. Let’s return to the science availability and what it does for science chuckleheads like myself. Without science we don’t have cures, the neat electrical objects and many of the  understandings of our natural world.

It’s necessary to ensure we continue advancing forward with that quest for truth.

That being said, we must investigate scientific knowledge for a moment.

I said I have had an increased interest in science. This doesn’t mean I understand science. Yes, it’s still different from math as I hate math and I’m poor at math.

I like science, I’m just bad at science. It’s important we establish what I’m bad at so let’s review. I’m bad at music, math, science and dancing.

We’ll add to this list at another time, but for the time being, let us concentrate on my science inadequacies.

For yet another time (because I don’t have anything else to write about) let’s rewind to my glorious high school years. Unencumbered by not dating, I was able to concentrate fully on being a class clown. Some would just settle on clown, but let’s go that little extra mile and say class clown. It establishes that I was popular in at least some small way while generally fumbling through the high school ranks.

After years of study, it became clear that I was at my clowninest when involved in something I struggled with. Horrible singer — gets kicked out of choir. Horrible in math — draw large-scale medieval battles rather than listening. Horrible at biology — generally make stupid, but somewhat humorous comments.

You can see where this is going. Actually you probably saw where this was going a while back, but like any curious person attending a circus, you watch the lion-tamer act just to see how sedated and trained the lions really were.

Don’t lie. You’ve wondered just how that was going to turn out.

Either way, my wit, such as it was, was used to guide me through an hour of not knowing what I was doing, thus ensuring I would never learn what I was doing. Listen, I was in high school. I wasn’t shackled with a lot of good ideas in those days.

It would explain the too-long duster and how I neglected to think how that might look on the shoulders of a kid struggling to grow to  5-10.

Science was not my thing and it wasn’t for years until it became available to me. The difference being that when I have the chance to talk to scientists, I am able to take advantage of the infectious nature of those scientists I now know, and when an excited personality tells you what they do or about what they study, you go along for the ride. It’s a natural route to curiosity and I have found I have benefited greatly from getting to know more of the scientists at The Hormel Institute.

Plus, Ted once said I was allowed to ask him stupid questions.

I thought he knew me better than that.