The Speed of Light, STEM & Awe

water sunsetBy Christine Mason. Light, the speed of light.  A constant, a thing to count on. Perhaps one day, scientists will uncover something that travels faster than the speed of light. Although we had a scare in 2012, when OPERA scientists reported that neutrinos may exceed the speed of light, the Icarus group failed to replicate this finding. So Einstein’s theory that nothing travels faster than light remains intact.

Still, the matter is not settled. NASA engineers have been busy trying to “warp” the trajectory of a photon, to accelerate light. If you are considering travel among stars, this could be very useful knowledge. If you are a Star Trek or sci-fi fan, this research could tantalize your interests.

In this season of solstice, with long, dark wintry days in the Northern hemisphere, light is very much on our minds.  During this winter break, I am considering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)—its importance to our future—and researching ways to engage school leaders in turning around classrooms and schools, schools that are only now returning Science to its integral place in school curricula. As I consider light and STEM, I am awestruck by the beauty that light brings to our world.

The image in the photo above was taken in the middle of night, on a ship navigating the waters between Stockholm and Helsinki, as I headed to an international conference in Finland last June.  Light from the brightness of a full day sun, to Northern Lights, to energy efficient light bulbs, and yes, even the light in the land of the Midnight Sun. For me it is hard to imagine STEM without STEAM (infusing it with art and design), without melding art and science. And it is hard to imagine STEM without schools that stimulate curiosity, without schools that ask children to ask questions, to consider alternative realities, and to focus on the future.


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