“People ask me why I spend so much time studying math and what I can do with it. But we do not ask why violets bloom in field on a spring day. It is not the violet’s concern on why it blooms,” -Oka Kiyoshi, “Studies of a Mathematician.”
I recall the feeling when I looked up at the night sky and how I first felt about myself against the infinite space. I was drawn to astronomy due to the awe and beauty of the twinkling starts. But one of the most frequently received questions my fellow colleagues and I get is “so what can you do with studying astronomy?”
Studying astronomy may sound romantic. What is the practical value of studying this field, one may ask? I found the answer to this question from Kiyoshi’s book “Studies of a Mathematician”. Regardless of the field of study, there are very few cases in academia where the practical value of a field turns out to be immediately evident. Even if violets do not need a reason for their existence for blooming, most academic fields hold practical value of their application to real life than known. This applies for humanities, social economic studies as well as engineering.
It is also true for astronomical studies. The charge-coupled device (CCD) used by astronomical telescopes was applied on digital cameras and mobile phones, while radio astronomy observing technology was adapted in medical image such as MRI or CT. Astronomy, along with medical science, is one of the oldest fields of study for humankind, was crucial for navigating sea and agriculture. Thanks to satellite navigation and astronomical observation, we can provide precise time and location services that are more accurate than ever. Even Wi-fi was invented by analyzing radio observation signals from black holes. Therefore the “value of one that blooms” is more than what it appears to be.