A questioning mind is a thinking mind

I have not always had a questioning mind. As a child, I would resist the urge to ask questions more than exercise them. It is only during my adult life as a student and teacher of Science that I have learned to shed inhibitions. Over the last couple of decades, I have worked on sharpening my questioning mind.

As the second wave of COVID-19 has hit us harder than before in India, anxiety is at its peak. More and more people are affected, not just in the news, but near and dear family and friends. It is getting harder to stay sane during these challenging times.

The disaster has exposed weaknesses in every corner of our collective existence. The circle of concern has exploded out of proportion, and the circle of influence has shrunk considerably. We all are struggling to find ways to cope with this ongoing crisis. There is also a dire need to develop scientific temper, empathy, and compassion as the foundations of our social being. A questioning mind can serve a constructive purpose in this endeavour.

Some days and weeks turn out to be overwhelming. I have found that pondering over scientific questions can function as a cathartic and even therapeutic exercise. It engages the brain beyond the immediate reality and recharges it. I exercised my questioning mind today as a self-care activity.

Exercising the questioning mind

Here is a list of questions curated from my therapeutic exercise.

  1. What if human sense organs were not external?
  2. What if humans were quadrupeds like our nearest ancestors?
  3. What if space did not have vacuum?
  4. What is the minimum particle density needed for sound to travel in space?
  5. What if the atomic size was one order of magnitude lower or higher?
  6. Is human migration to Mars a good thing?
  7. What if the water on the earth’s surface suddenly shrinks to half its amount?
  8. What if human respiration needed Nitrogen instead of Oxygen?
  9. What if human civilisations had never formed?
  10. How do dogs sense danger?
  11. What if the internet was never invented?
  12. Do all mammals menstruate?
  13. What if humans were capable of asexual reproduction?
  14. Why can’t we record smells like we do sights and sounds?
  15. What if the earth’s immediate atmosphere extended for another 10 km?
  16. What if some alien life is watching us from millions of miles away?
  17. What if all animals could photosynthesise food?
  18. What if water’s density was double it’s current density?
  19. What would non-Carbon-based life forms be like?
  20. What if Gold occurred in nature in a gaseous state?

I also got at the last minute, a short list of questions from some young and old friends.

  1. Why does uncle have a beard today?
  2. How does Google know when this photo was taken?
  3. Why don’t animals speak like us?
  4. Why does it rain in the summer season?
  5. Why can’t we breathe underwater?
  6. How do fish breathe underwater?

Exercise keeps us healthy

Like any other physical exercise, this exercise keeps our brain fit and healthy. The more we practice over the long term, the better our brain health is. We have written about this earlier too – asking the right questions, nurturing curiosity, questions to de-clutter.

I encourage and urge all our readers to exercise the ‘questioning muscle’ often. You know who has the most active questioning minds? Children, of course! I have also observed that senior citizens have this too. While I am conscious of encouraging the questioning mind in children, I get irritated with parents and grandparents. I am learning to have more patience with their questions, even when they seem nosy and irrelevant.

So, go ahead, nurture your curiosity and of all those around you, young and old alike. Exercise your questioning mind and stay healthy.

Share your questions with us in the comments.

Until next time, stay curious and stay safe.

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Featured Image credits – Arek Socha from Pixabay

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Dr. Soumya Sreehari

Dr. Soumya Sreehari

Co-Founder and Specialist at NumberNagar®
Dr. Soumya is an Educator and Researcher with a passion for reading, writing and teaching. She holds a PhD in Chemistry (Michigan Technological University, Houghton, USA). Her experience as a student and a teacher in two countries led her to pursue a career in Education. Her core work at NumberNagar® involves quality delivery of product and services at every stage of the customer life cycle. She leads the team that makes this happen. Previously she has taught Chemistry to first year undergraduate students at Michigan Technological University. She is a voracious reader and challenges herself to read 50 books every year.

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