Scientists see the world differently from people who don't do research for a living, says Hannah Waters at Culturing Science. When you have scientific knowledge, you see the world in a new light — for example, if you know a lot about physics, you can look at a tabletop and picture the various atoms, molecules and empty space in between, but if you're not a scientist or don't know much about physics, the idea that most of the tabletop is made up of the empty space between atoms sounds "completely insane," Waters says. The ability to "exist in two worlds at once ... provides me with a great deal of satisfaction," she adds. Not everyone needs to think in equations all the time, but everyone should work to develop a "real scientific literacy," Waters says, which means embracing the two pillars of science — asking questions of the world around you and finding answers to those questions. That means engaging children in school, and engaging adults by communicating the science that's being done. "Even if they didn't grow up with science and thus feel alienated, by telling engrossing stories that celebrate the science of our daily lives, we can cause a small revolution in the way a person sees the world," she says.
Full disclosure: Hannah Waters is a minority investor in GenomeWeb who has no editorial input in our publications.