Finding joy and inspiration in the pursuit of knowledge

Eva Emerson
Sandy Schaffer
When I was young, my great uncle Joseph Seruto (a Sicilian immigrant, chemist and father of five) drew diagrams to emphasize just how important it was to apply myself in school. He drew arrows leading from “knowledge” to “power” to “happiness.” Studying, he said, was the key to building the knowledge that would throw open the gates to possibility and a contented life.

As freelancer Siri Carpenter writes in “Adults with autism are left to navigate a jarring world,” it’s clear that a lack of knowledge about how to best help adults with autism leaves caregivers and professionals feeling powerless. As the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders rises, finding ways to assist them with the transition to adulthood and building meaningful lives takes on a new urgency. Luckily, scientific studies are now beginning that should point to ways to help adults with autism navigate the challenges they face. Knowledge is power.

Of course, as we learn in every issue, knowledge is not written in stone. It’s a shifty beast, and pursuing it is at least half the fun. In “Rosetta reveals a complex comet,” for example, readers will learn that comets are not the dirty snowballs once imagined, but complex objects with stories to tell. In “Speed of light not so constant after all,” we learn that the speed of light should be considered a speed limit of light, not always its actual velocity, even in a vacuum. In “Brain’s protective barrier gets leakier with age,” the highly protective blood-brain barrier takes a hit: Its breakdown with age might play a role in dementia.

An inspiring tale about creating new knowledge is hidden in “Dust erases evidence for gravity wave detection,” the latest wrinkle in the search for primordial gravitational waves. The amazing discovery announced last year, it seems, is not. At least not yet. There’s not enough evidence to conclude that those ancient gravitational waves exist. Dust mimics the signal, as we have reported before. But this is not all bad news. This is how science is supposed to work. Two teams — one that had claimed the discovery, and one that had questioned it — worked together to find the truth, through rational evaluation of the evidence. Their cooperation is a model for the rest of us. It speaks to the human capabilities we engage whenever we use logic to build knowledge. As my Uncle Joe would say, that’s powerful.

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