There is a hidden world of science. It’s right there to see but nobody particularly notices it. Non-scientists don’t live in the world of science and so rarely have an opportunity to observe it and scientists are so embedded in their world that they don’t notice this world. This hidden world is the environment of science. It includes the places, objects, behaviors, and cultures of science that exist outside the realm of what would conventionally be called “the science” that scientists perform, but is inextricably linked to the science. There is a complex interplay between “the science” and the “environments of science”.
Of course, there is not just one environment for all science. There are vast differences between fields of science, locations of laboratories, and global cultures. But perhaps there is something characteristic of science environments. And perhaps those environments contribute in some essential way to the practice of science. Do science environments arise from the scientific culture, or do they environments help build and reinforce scientific cultures?
These are all topics and questions that this blog will try to address. I realize that it’s an area I’ve been skirting around for a long time, and has influenced a large number of stories in my day time job editing symmetry magazine. As an ex-research physicist who came to gain a different view of science as a journalist, the environments of science and how they are shaped by and shape scientific endeavors have become clearer.
The scope will be fairly broad, driven mainly by examples, from which I hope to see various recurrent themes. I’ll be exploring connections between science and physical space, tools, architecture, design, objects, fashion, location, sensory experiences, processes, and cultural constructs. Many of the examples will be from the world of physics, as it is the area I have strongest connections with but I will be looking for guest commentaries from others that concentrate on other scientific fields. For now, I’m not going to try to be comprehensive, but just observe, describe, and conjecture about the environments of science.