Saturday, 17 January 2009

Science as a Candle in the Dark

The other day I was sharing my train to work with a bunch of teenagers all wearing black shirts with a YSA label on. I noticed a symbol on their chests: shaped like the crest of a football club, it featured the map of Australia surrounded by orbiting electrons (the way atoms are often portrayed). I grew curious: What are these people?
Curiosity grew even stronger as the train made its way. On one hand, one would expect such a logo to be used by some scientific group or by a company trying to market itself as a company with a scientific orientation. But what science are we talking of here? In front of me was a group of mixed patronage, boys and girls; since when do you get girls involved in science? Besides, these kids seemed to be nice teenagers – as in, they were doing what you would expect teenagers to do but they weren’t doing so in any way that might lead you to want to chuck a shoe in their general direction to hush them up.
On the other hand, I thought I managed to read the word “chapel” on one of the guys’ shirts. That’s it, I thought: it’s just another case of the church trying to appear modern and appeal to the younger generations. That would explain the existence of girls in the group, as well as their general good behaviour; it wouldn’t, however, explain the way they freely hung about in a manner that is atypical to what people growing in the confinement of religion tend to be like.
I got my answer once we all left the train together in the city and I could finally read what the shirts said: YSA stands for Young Scientists of Australia, and the bit I thought said “chapel” actually said “Melbourne Chapter”.
Once at the office I was curious enough to have a look at the YSA’s website (here, or here for the Melbourne Chapter). It seems we have on our hands an organization of enterprising youths that take the matter of discussing and advancing scientific matters into their own hands.
What can I say other than wish them all the best and express my own personal happiness at this small sign that sanity is still there in between all the churches and the pseudo psycho babble? Well, the least I can do is plug them in my blog.
I know I shouldn’t really push baby Dylan where he is not inclined to go, but I’ll put it this way: I’d be more than happy to pay for Dylan’s YSA membership if, once old enough, he decides to take part. Till then, all the best, YSA!

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