The world is full of questions at the moment, more so than ever. Thank goodness we have science and creativity to help answer them.
Ever heard of International ‘Ask A Question’ Day? Science is all about asking questions and finding answers, and there are so many questions to choose from.
For CSIRO’s Double Helix magazine, I asked some of Australia’s top scientists about the questions they’d most like to see answered…
Fiona Wood: “Can we think ourselves whole?”
Professor Fiona Wood is Director of the Burns Service of Western Australia and has worked for 20 years as a burns surgeon and researcher. She invented spray-on skin for treating burns, was 2005 Australian of the Year, and is an Australian Living Treasure.
“There is so much information all around us but how do we know what is right, true, useful and how do we craft that knowledge into a solution?
“I have so many unknowns that keep driving me forward. Why do we scar and not regenerate tissues to the original form and function? Why does a burn injury have a lifelong impact?
“Where do I find the answers? Working across disciplines bringing many minds to solve the problem is key.
“I want to understand the role of the nervous system, the brain and all the nerves, in controlling self-organisation of tissue to drive a regenerative pattern. Ultimately – can we think ourselves whole???”
Brian Schmidt: “Is there life on other planets?”
Professor Brian P. Schmidt won a 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering that our universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. He’s an astrophysicist (and Vice Chancellor) at the Australian National University.
“I would like to find out if there is life on other planets, and if so, how many planets have life.
“Life on Earth is amazing, but trying to imagine what life might be across the Universe is even more amazing.
“Over the coming 10 to 20 years, we will, with the next generation of telescopes, be able to look at many exo-planet atmospheres, and see the tell-take signs of life, if it exists.
“Who knows what we will find?”
Mary-Anne Williams: “Will we ever understand consciousness?”
Professor Mary-Anne Williams is Director of the Innovation and Enterprise Research Laboratory (AKA the Magic Lab) at University of Technology Sydney. She’s an expert on disruptive innovation, loves to turn science fiction into reality, and is one of Robohub’s Top 25 Women in Robotics.
“There are millions of questions about consciousness that don’t have an answer.
“Imagine being a cat for a day. What would it feel like to wiggle ears on the top of your head and to have retractable claws instead of fingers?
“I wonder how our mind and body work together to create human experiences. How do they make us feel happy, sad, anxious and excited? How do they create perceptions of reality that feel so real?
“For example, pain is not real, it’s a perception created by our minds, so how does feel so hurtful? How do the neurons in our brain create our thoughts, likes, dislikes, desires and imagination? I build robots to try to find out.”
What’s your big question this International ‘Ask A Question’ Day?