A universal language

International space stationOver the holiday weekend I watched a few things that solidified my appreciation for mathematics and science.

For two nights in a row the international space station “flew” over North Texas at a rate of about 27,700 km/hr (or 17,210 mi/hr). It looked like a star shining across the night sky. I watched in amazement that this man-made machine was orbiting the Earth with people inside. We’ve forgotten how cool space exploration can be.

I also watched as a control room of rocket scientists (seriously) cheered as the Phoenix Mars Lander made it safely to the red planet. For fun I started to follow the Mars lander on Twitter to get updates from the mission. (Note: This is a clever use of the micro-blogging platform.)

Lastly, I enjoyed some Mythbusters on the Discovery channel. They do some very cool, fun, and dangerous stuff on the show.

All three of these led me to a common theme: We would be lost without mathematics and science.

Consider what Thomas Friedman says in The World is Flat in the section called The Quiet Crisis where he explains the areas in which he believes the United States is deficient:

Today, we should be concerned about the gaps in our education, infrastructure, and ambitions that threaten to weaken us from within…

We simply are not educating, or even interesting, enough of our own young people in advanced math, science, and engineering…

It takes fifteen years to train a scientist or advanced engineer, starting from when that young man or woman first gets hooked on science and math in elementary school. Therefore, we should be embarking immediately on an all-hands-on-deck, no-holds-barred, no-budget-too-large crash program for science and engineering education.

I want to encourage young parents to consider working through fears of math (especially word problems) or science confusion. Seek out the answers to your kids’ questions to light that intellectual spark early in life.

Of course, we keep in mind the right-brain tools as well, but consider what Jodi Foster’s character, Ellie Arroway, in the 1997 movie Contact had to say: “Mathematics is the only true universal language.”

I’ll be encouraging my kids to appreciate math and science. I want them to know It will be ok to be smart. And who knows, maybe my kids or grandkids will be blogging from the moon.