While all scientists are science buffs, not all science buffs are scientists. While scientists make up the majority, non-scientist science buffs are a rare species.
A scientist’s fascination with an exploration of the natural world is somewhat self-reinforcing—they work in the field, get the latest info, and are surrounded by others who share their interests. The other kind of science buff, however, the non-scientist is a beautiful anomaly.
The fact that the layperson science buff is a less common creature is self-evident when you walk into any bookstore. The science section is hard to find and may be restricted to only a few shelves. Out of hundreds of books on all kinds of subjects, this section looks as if it had been put there with grudging reluctance. A perfunctory nod to empirical inquiry rather than a display of hearty approbation.
Further proof that most people would rather read anything but scientific books can be found by glancing at the New York Times non-fiction best seller list. Only once in a while will a science book even make a humble appearance. It’s usually outmatched by self-help topics of all kinds, some autobiographies by politicians hoping to stabilize their public image, or a few bold attempts by religious writers to awaken religious sentiment in the public awareness.
So what is it that makes a layman science buff continue to love science, despite not belonging to the inner circle and surrounded by an indifferent general public?
3 Characteristics of an Armchair Science Buff
Here are a few characteristics of non-scientist science buffs, many of which, of course, will also pertain to scientists who are science buffs.
1. They admire great scientists.
For science buffs, getting an autograph of Albert Einstein might be a dream. Rare historical autographs for sale of a renowned scientist like Albert Einstein, Louis Pasteur, Thomas Edison and more are purchased by buffs who truly understand the achievements of these great men.
Why this admiration? It’s because science is hard. It requires years of thinking and experimentation to prove if a hypothesis is true. In addition, even if the theory is proved true, a scientist has to fight against the orthodoxy that has become attached to an earlier theory.
2. They are thrilled by new discoveries.
A science buff reacts to the breaking news of a scientific advancement with the same enthusiasm with which a religious person hears about a miracle. They want to know more details immediately. They read blog posts, buy books, and try to connect with others who might know more about it. They are often as thrilled as if they had made the discovery themselves. An 18th-century science buff would have considered Herschel's discovery of Uranus as mind-boggling. Even today, the first sight of stellar nebulae inspires a sense of awe and reverence at the mystery of the deep cosmos.
3. They are puzzled by the indifference most people have to science.
While many scientific books and papers are written in highly technical language that makes it difficult for someone outside the field to understand them, there are more than enough books and videos explained in laymen terms to make them perfectly comprehensible. For instance, books on The Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are hard to grasp without a good grounding in physics and mathematics, but books like The Dancing Wu Li Masters written by Gary Zukav in 1979 does a remarkable job of explaining the most important ideas in modern physics in general and quantum particles in particular. Working closely with leading physicists, Zukav repeatedly verified that he was giving an accurate account of the mysteries of the world of matter, energy, space, and time. In fact, the book won the 1980 U.S. National Book award in the science category.
What puzzles the science buff about the collective ignorance is that the benefits of an inquiry into the nature of reality are obvious in everyday technology; that the scientific method addresses the key issues of philosophical inquiry about the nature of reality, and that there is more than enough accessible and comprehensible information available about it.