Bill Maloney died on December 16.
He was my junior high science teacher who taught me a simple question — “What do you see?”
It seems simple enough, but it wasn’t. The question was Socratic, good for science class, good for life.
In the lab, Mr. Maloney told us to mix two chemicals in a beaker, and heat them over a Bunsen burner. What do you see, he’d ask.
The colors changed, blue to red as the mixture bubbled. We, the students, described the change. Then he’d ask again, what do you see?
The bubbles grew and popped, the color morphing from red to purple, now foaming and rising, no longer one color but many colors. What do you see?
And we scribbled notes in a journal, our eyes glued on the beaker and the flame, as the mixture cycled through color after color, red and orange and yellow and green and blue and indigo and violet.
What do you see came the voice again, and we scribbled a bit more, page after page, about our simple experiment.
What Mr. Maloney had taught was the importance of digging deeper, of never looking at surface evidence alone, but peeling the layers, one after another, to find hidden truths.
Nature does not so easily reveal her secrets. She hides them. We have to work for the knowledge. Knowledge easily gained can’t be nature’s real secret.
Mr. Maloney’s question was the same one asked by DiVinci, Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Franklin, Darwin, Curie, Einstein, and all other scientists of note.
What do you see? It was and is the basis of science. Perhaps more fundamentally, Mr. Maloney’s question taught us to seek truth, a valuable lesson in a world where truth seems so hard to come by these days.
Thank you, Mr. Maloney, for teaching me to see better.
Vince J. Juaristi