Conversations with Snow and Ice


The Art and Science through Ukichiro Nakaya

"Science is a collaboration between humans and nature."


3. Physical Science and Society: Ukichiro's fieldwork

"When you are shoveling earth and the shovel seems to get heavier, you pick a handful of grass and use it to scrape the dirt sticking to the shovel. It is lighter now. The work would be easier if there were some way to keep the dirt from sticking to the shovel. Returning home that night you scrape off the rust and apply some oil to the surface of the shovel. The next day the shovel feels very light in your hands. You know that the shovel felt heavy because there was dirt sticking to its surface.
Dealing with a question by trying something out is what experiments are all about. Experimentation is the greatest single characteristic of methods in natural science. Research institutes and universities have many laboratories and various facilities. Essentially, though, they are the places where you do the same thing as polishing and lubricating a shovel: that is, they are the places where you ask 'why is this so?' and you "try something out".

Ukichiro Nakaya, excerpt from Science and Life (Translation by Keiko Murata)