February 19, 2023, 9:05 Feb

Fact checking myself

I have had a lot of ideas for blog posts recently, but they usually occur to me at the end of a long day glaring at a screen and hence they never get written. One of these ideas, which came to me during the post about my inability to prioritise or be consistent, was to check whether the environmentalist story that I've constructed about myself is really true. This story goes something along the lines of: "I saw an Inconvenient Truth when I was 10 (ish) and have been worried about climate change ever since, I've just never had an outlet for it until XR."

I really don't know how true this is though. I mean, there's a grain of truth for sure, but was I riddled with climate anxiety since the age of 10? Probably not, but only because there was so much to be anxious about that it was hard to keep track. Nonetheless, the thought occurred to me that I could check my UCAS application to see what I wrote there. I've reproduced a first draft I found in my emails below.

It would be an absolutely excruciating read were it not for the fact that 16 year old me is a completely different person. You might be seeing this and thinking "How are you not embarrassed?" but if anything I feel bad for outing younger me publicly like this. I mean the guy's dead (figuratively) and now he's getting balancer by some inconsiderate blogger (urgh, I guess I am a blogger now, gross)? Not cool. Anyway, here is the application:

Even before I started studying chemistry three years ago, I had already developed an appreciation for it thanks to my Integrated Science teacher who had a heavy bias for chemistry. I, like many other young students I’m sure, was first drawn to chemistry by my love of explosions. My teacher’s demonstration of the reaction of potassium and water in particular has remained ingrained in my mind.

[Some boring stuff about how I chose to study Chemical Engineering because I googled chemistry, physics and maths. Highly recommend this way of choosing what to study.]

Another aspect of chemical engineering that I like is that it deals with some of the world's most pressing problems, such as climate change, water shortages and pollution. I’d like to be able to look back on my life and be satisfied that I helped humanity in some way.

[Some bragging about my schooling]

For my last two years of school, I chose to study History, Philosophy, Chemistry and Physics as well as Further Mathematics along with the English, French and Geography which are compulsory subjects. I chose to study History and Philosophy as well as my science subjects because while I appreciate the relative certainty that comes with the natural sciences and mathematics, I believe the social sciences can be just as important. It’s naive to think that science does little more than further our knowledge; that knowledge has impacts which are studied in the social sciences. To pick just one example, the progress of science caused the Industrial Revolution whose consequences have been far-reaching, not least by enriching nations who had access to fossil fuels. This is why I believe it’s important to be aware of the often overlooked impact of science in the real world, something which is very evident in chemical engineering. History and Philosophy have also nurtured a (hopefully) healthy skepticism in me. This is something that I find lacking in science classes where sometimes you are told to simply accept what you are told. Philosophy in particular has had me doubting things I thought of as unassailable truths, such as the reliability of science as a tool for acquiring knowledge.

[More bragging about extra curricular activities, as you do]

Re-reading this does make me want to puke slightly I'm not going to lie, and that's even with some self-censoring. So much unabashed boasting makes me want to give my 16 year old a sound slap. Still, props to young Seb for calling into question the ability of science to acquire knowledge, though honestly I don't think that I understood what I was saying, or at least not as well as I do know. Thank goodness I guess, the last 10 years haven't been a complete waste.

More importantly, I mentioned climate change, pollution and water scarcity. Good going Seb. You are somewhat consistent.

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