The "How Do Polymers Work" Project

Or the "What's it all about anyway" Page

Ever wonder what science is really all about? IS science as complicated and complex as most people think it is? Can only the super-smart and the highly educated do "real" science?

These are excellent questions.  In fact, if you have ever asked any of them, then you're already well on your way to being a scientist.  Because, you see, that's what science is all about: asking questions and finding answers.

It turns out that anybody can (and most people do) ask questions all the time. The main difference between a scientist and the average man, woman and child on the street, is that a scientist has been trained to ask questions the right way, so that you can get an answer.  That's the trick, you see: asking the question so that the means for getting the answer is clear; not obvious, but clear so that you know what to do to actually get the answer. In fact, a great scientist once said, "Knowing answers is easy, but Ah! Asking a good question; now that takes real genius!"

So, what is this project all about then? Getting you, the average student in an average (or above average) school somewhere in America, to try asking some good questions... and then trying to find the answers.  Sounds easy, but believe me, it's a little more involved than just tossing out the first thing that pops into your head (almost always not the best thing that your head can hold).

Here's the deal: try to think of a really good question, one that interests you and that should be of interest to other people. It should deal with polymers in some way (and we have ways of letting you know something about polymers).  It should be really basic. It should be fun to know about (learning usually is) and the answer should be novel or weird enough to make a good story. That's really what you goal is: use the question as the starting point to tell a good story about something that you learn about dealing with polymers: what polymer is used in some neat application (like Goretex in your hiking boots) and why.

We give you some examples of what we thought might be good questions for everybody to know the answers to, questions that might pop into your head as you sit in the car waiting for a light to change (Why is the dashboard cracked, anyway?) or in a dentist chair (What the heck is that gooey stuff he's smearing on my tooth?). We've also included some sample questions we want answers to but haven't found them yet.  Use these both as starting points in your thinking, but don't use them yourself: you can do a whole lot better if you really try.

So, what exactly are you going to do? Just this- look around yourself and ask yourself questions:

Here's what you're shooting for: a single web page (and that's not many words and pictures) that asks a neat question in an interesting and insightful way, then gives a concise, yet clear answer that is easily understood by your friends and family, and anybody out there who just might want to know the answer, too.

This whole project will be lots of fun.  Why?  Because it makes you think, learn and understand something so you can explain it simply to almost anybody.  This is a real challenge, and that's what life is all about in general, and especially what being a scientist is all about.  So have fun! (and come up with some neat questions...)