Watching an eagle soar across the hilltop circle of Bukit Dumbar Reservoir Park, and then be ambushed from seven o’clock by a Brahminy kite with its cotton-white head and red-rust body, and seeing a large snake writhe in the eagle’s claws as the two birds fly off into the distance still squabbling, with the little god of war in hot pursuit of the larger bird is quite a different experience than reading on Wikipedia that the kite “indulges in kleptoparasitism”.

But this is what I love about science, you can read about some random fact and then a long time later, have the chance to see it confirmed in front of your face. The feeling I had seeing the kite try to steal the snake is the same feeling as when, working on my own with makeshift reagents, I first managed to infect cells and stain them and see the brown-rimmed plaques and be like “muahahaha I HAZ CORONAVIRUS”.

Because we’re raised in a system where rote memorisation and blind obedience are rewarded, you just learn to keep your head down and your eyes blinkered against the living world. That some books actually contain knowledge about the real world and not just some bullshit that old people made up – the first time I experienced that, that connected all the dots, that was when the magic happened.

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