“Enough”

Much like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, I tend to believe at least 6 impossible things – or believe in six ambitious ideas – before breakfast. Perhaps unlike Alice, I also tend to dismiss all of them as unoriginal and not worth pursuing by lunch, and the first two days of the capstone course have been no exception: On day one, I left with a relatively certain idea of what I wanted to accomplish with my project, and by day two, I felt entirely inadequate and questioned my competence as a writer.

This lack of confidence is likely because what I hope to do with my project sounds nothing like any of the examples that were given in class, whether by Raymond or by other classmates. I didn’t enter the Minor in Writing program to learn to create multilayered, beautiful essays on feminism and Beyoncé or social analyses of World of Warcraft or philosophy-journalism hybrids. These things sound interesting, sure, but I cannot imagine devoting more than a hot second to writing about them.

When it comes down to it, I entered the Minor to become a better science journalist.

My passion has always been making the general public care about science – and the big, lofty parts of science, too, like astrophysics or quantum mechanics or the surface composition of Pluto (which, for the record, is full of nitrogen glaciers the viscosity of toothpaste that swirl up and down from surface to interior and back again like a not-quite-planet-sized lava lamp). I love creating enthusiastic, ambitious things like YouTube videos or infographics or podcasts or social media accounts that communicate how breathtakingly beautiful and exciting the universe is and how science isn’t quite as terrifying as your high school physics class might have let on. I became a writing minor with the hope that I would learn to communicate that better, which led me to the natural conclusion of “I want to create some sort of nonfiction, science writing piece for my capstone course.”

That being said, my hope for my capstone project is this: To create a small, low-stakes, unassuming book that, in a narrative style, overviews the exciting beauty of a quantum mechanics (I’m jumping right into the deep end here) and doesn’t send readers fleeing with terror in the opposite direction.

Initially, I had absolutely no clue how to make this interesting. To my ever-comparing brain, it doesn’t sound grandiose or exquisitely layered, which has resulted in a great deal of self-doubt, but it both accomplishes what I set out to learn in the minor (i.e. how to write and write about science better) and is something uniquely mine. Although the world certainly isn’t filled with young women studying psychology who want to write about some of the universe’s most complicated physics, sure, this idea seemed, simply, “not enough.”

…and then, thanks to the beauty of blogging, the more I typed, the more an idea developed, which led me to this: a children’s book, fully illustrated and narratively written, about the highlights of quantum mechanics.

Disciplines would include quantum mechanics/physics, education, and science writing. The focal object would be an overview of quantum mechanics, from basic atomic parts to the basics of string theory and M-theory. And confounding variables, well, it’s a children’s book. A child could shrink smaller and smaller, examining the individual parts, or different atomic parts could be different characters. It could be an interactive eBook or a traditional watercolor+text combination. I’m sure more options will arise in the coming days!

I like to imagine that this is the sort of impossible idea I believe in just before breakfast, but also during lunch, and my 2 o’clock coffee that lingers too long in my mug before I rinse it out, and the crock pot dinner that spent eight hours cooking. Mostly, I hope it is “enough,” or that it will soon be.

 

Alexis Stempien

An aspiring science writer studying biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience with minors in writing and general shenanigans. In my spare time, I make YouTube videos at http://www.youtube.com/theseneonhearts.

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