By Ryan Sultana (BSc. Biology & Chemistry, 3rd Year)
Exam weeks are upon us and we are all desperately cramming enough information in our brain before d-day. This is also the time that we make up excuses to take breaks, be it coffee every fifteen minutes or looking blankly at the wall. There is nothing less frustrating then feeling guilty for giving your mind a quick rest. Here I present to you a better way in “wasting” your valuable time; /r/askscience.
Askscience is a subreddit on the ever growing ‘reddit.com’, a forum-type website catered for all people with almost every interest imaginable. A highly moderated subsection of this website, /r/askscience, allows people to submit those burning questions we all die for for our lecturers to answer, yet never find the guts to ask them in the first place.
By visiting reddit.com/r/askscience one comes across a list of hyperlink questions about different scientific topics. On the left of these are categories conveniently coloured (e.g. Biology in green, Physics in purple) for you to quickly skim through. All questions listed have been submitted by users such as yourselves and then upvoted by other users depending on their relevance and importance. Upvotes will prioritize a question or a comment and move it up the list on the frontpage. Repeated questions are also taken care of by moderators and removed, or otherwise dowvoted or referred to already answered questions by other users. This way the front page of askscience is ensured to contain new and interesting questions every day.
When you click on a question a comments page opens up. Here users comment and discuss the question put forward. When a relevant person, say a professor or a person working in the field, replies with a concise answer containing references, other users quickly upvote that comment which will then appear on top of the page. This ensures that every question is answered by a trusted person and has the most relevant answer possible.
Many questions are put forward each week from the bizarre; “Does the deep ocean have seasons?” to the mind-boggling; “ Did the singularity of the universe contain all of the atoms that exist today?”. Apart from all these questions, askscience also hosts AMAs (ask me anything) threads to prominent scientists. An example of this would be “We’ve added new, artificial letters to the DNA alphabet. Ask Us Anything”.
Askscience is not just a treasure trove of knowledge but also a place to get our minds working. I find this a place to unwind in the evening and learn something new. It can also be a way, in such dreadful times, of taking a break from studying without breaking (excuse the pun) the routine of learning science stuff.