By Carolina Cawthon, Dietetic Intern
Can you imagine a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle?
I’ll give you a second...
Ok, got it?
Now, think about those 10,000 pieces in a box without a picture of what the puzzle will be when it is put together. I know it’s scary, but your job is to figure it out what it is.
Finally, after a couple of hours, you find a couple of pieces that go together and it looks like water. “Oh,” you think. “It’s going to be a lake!” You keep piecing the puzzle and the next little group of pieces you manage to fit together makes a patch of grass. You think, “Yep, it’s a lake with a grassy shore.”
Working along into the night, the next little bit seems to be part of a tall building. “What? What’s a tall building doing in the same puzzle as my lake with the grassy shore? Are there extra pieces in this box?” you wonder. You are now completely confused but you keep piecing and finally finish the puzzle to find out…..it’s a sidewalk with a puddle on it that runs through a park in a big city! As you were putting together the parts, you thought the puddle was a lake and the city buildings didn’t make sense until you were done with the whole puzzle.
The puzzle you were just thinking about is a lot like what scientists do every day.
They ask questions and do experiments to get information. The bits of information are like the puzzle pieces. Scientists have to fit the pieces together to figure out how something works. Every time they get a new puzzle piece, scientists do their best to figure out what the big picture is.
Remember how the water and the grass made you think your puzzle was a lake with a grassy shore? Sometimes scientists get it wrong, too. Part of their job is being able to rethink their answers when they get new information. Since scientists are always finding new information, they often update what they think the big picture will be. This is why we get updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. The updates let scientists think about how new information fits with what they already know!
So, the next time it seems like they just can’t make up their minds about what you should eat, you’ll know it means they found some new puzzle pieces!