The Quest for Truth: What Scientists Can Learn by Observing Nature

Albert Einstein remarked, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” He knew something that many scientists and engineers overlook in their quest for truth: nature holds the answers we’re seeking! We’re simply here to learn nature’s language and laws, and how we can interact with it. Every law of the universe can be witnessed by observing nature. In the west, we like to believe we arrive at facts once they’ve been scientifically validated. Truthfully, the facts were written long before humans arrived on this planet, and we are simply catching up. What science brings to the table is a deeper understanding of why things happen and how to ensure the right things continue to happen so both our species and planet thrive together.

We Protect What We Love

We begin with love. From our very first moment on this planet, we recognize beauty. Our initial attraction leads to connection, intimacy and bonding. What makes love last is our desire to nurture and protect. When we experience love, we’re not cognizant of the flood of dopamine, oxytocin and cortisol released into our bloodstream. We’re simply high on the intense feelings of happiness. Love relationships truly make the world go ‘round, and without love, we’d cease to exist as a species. Love is a universal law that governs human existence; science simply helps us understand what is happening to us.

All innovations in science and engineering are a copy of something in nature. And what better model to follow? Nature has spent the last hundred billion years in R&D. Consider the elegant design of a flower. Arguably considered one of the most beautiful gifts of nature, flowers engineered the shape of their petals, the length of their pistil, the smell and texture of their sweet nectar and their trapping mechanism to ensure their captor would be sufficiently covered in the flower’s DNA. Or consider why certain species of hummingbirds have such long beaks, sometimes greater than the length of their body. They co-evolved with deep-necked flowers featuring long corollas, such as the passiflora mixta. This relationship between flower and pollinator – the love story that feeds the earth – is responsible for over one third of the food we eat and took over 50 million years to evolve!

Where Art & Science Meet

As a filmmaker, I have spent thirty years mastering the art and science of time-lapse and slow motion cinematography, taking people on journeys through time, space and scale, capturing the truth of nature in a way that words cannot. With altered speed, macro and aerial techniques, I’m able to reveal what is too slow, too fast, too small or too vast for the human eye to see. Through this art form, I provide a point of view that is radically different from the human perspective. My work shifts our understanding of relativity and opens our perception beyond human vision. When we begin to consider impossible things, we dare to push past preconceived notions, assumed truths and accepted norms and enter into the place where innovation and discovery are born. This is the domain of the greatest thinkers of our time.

Nature lies at the intersection of art and science. Art looks at something as beautiful while science observes it in relation to its function. Nature uses beauty as a tool to master function and to further evolve its species. Since nature is the basis for the laws governing the universe, one could argue that beauty is our most powerful tool to not just survive, but thrive. All creatures respond instinctively to beauty – color, taste, touch, smell and design. It’s critical that scientists across all disciplines study the fundamentals in nature and art and look to the systems and structures of the natural world to solve our greatest problems.

We are at a critical time in history where we will depend heavily on advances in natural science and improved clean energy technology to eradicate global warming and climate change. My greatest opportunity as a filmmaker is to inspire a generation of change agents by revealing the mysteries of the natural world. When we fall in love with nature, we will instinctively protect it.

The USA Science & Engineering Festival is a beacon of hope for emerging scientific thought leaders. There are many ways to be in the practice of science. I want young people to understand they can make breakthrough scientific discoveries both in a lab and outside of it. As we evolve over the next century, I believe we will – we must! – turn to nature to uncover the answers that will save us. If my films can shift minds by unlocking a deeper understanding of the uni-verse, or inspire inquiry and imagination in youth, then my greatest work has been done.

2 thoughts on “The Quest for Truth: What Scientists Can Learn by Observing Nature”

  1. How eloquently said! You have put in words how I instinctively feel about Nature. I am an admirer of your art. Thank you for writing this post and for sharing the infinite beauty of Nature so generously with us. May your mission of inspiring the love of Nature be accomplished, not only in America but all over the world!

    1. Well said! I, too, have in my 60s come back to nature as I grew up on a farm. Nature teaches us so much if we would just observe and listen.

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