The Indigenous Science Experience, and How to Commemorate ItAugust 21, 2014

In 1611, Johannes Kepler came up with the laws of planetary motion. But he had nothing to verify his theory. He was in the midst of a scientific revolution, where his contribution would make him one of the key figures of that period. It would take four hundred years before these scientific laws were proven right. The Germany astronomer might not have foreseen the computer, but he would have wished for one back then.

Science goes back to the dawn of time. Yes, Virginia, we're talking about the aborigines. Contrary to the assumption of many, these people do rely on scientific laws. But they don't need to have the same predicament as Kepler's.

Expansion in the name of science

Renaissance was not only a renewed interest in Hellenism, but also looking at things on a different light. Religion, superstition, and fear, prevalent during the Middle Age, were replaced with reason and knowledge. The likes of Nicolaus Copernicus multiplied during this period. It coincided with the Age of Discovery.

New lands, far and away from Europe, were conquered in the name of religion. But it was Western Science that subdued the people living in these places, proclaiming the superiority of white men. This was the case with the aborigines, whom the first Europeans who have set foot in Oz didn't have a favourable first impression. How wrong they were. Galileo Galilei insisted that the moon had nothing to do with tides. The Yolngu people, living in north eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, thought otherwise. It took some time to prove the native of Florence wrong, but better late than never.

The truth is the aborigines is way ahead of their Western counterpart. They only need to be perceptive to nature. (It was proven that they found a way to turn arid lands into fertile soils, only to be destroyed by intensive agriculture.) Colonisation deprived them of recognition in this field. (Better late than never.)

Time to have fun

Commemorating the Indigenous Science Experience need not be political. Adults and children gather on the fourth Saturday of August, learning what the aborigines have done these last few centuries. There's more to bush medicine, as the name suggests. Native animals are not mere eye candy. One can lean about science and mathematics by looking at a parched land.

"Science often gets dressed up as a something that is purely intellectual, but it’s actually really hands-on," Macquarie University Research Officer David Harrington said. "By looking at how Aboriginal peoples use navigation, fire and earth as tools, we gain a better appreciation of how important science is to our day-to-day lives."

Knowing more about pre-European contact Aboriginal culture isn't meant to make us understand our history better. It's also an acknowledgement of their intellectual achievements, even if it sounds patronising. Who knows, there may be something about their hunting practice that may be helpful in knowing how the ecosystem works.

So come one, come all.

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