Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Slow Birth of Science

In these 3 blogs I examine what the true essence of science really is, the barriers to its emergence, how it is still misunderstood, and ways to make it better.

by Nick Taylor


 

So what is science?

ein ref    [Source: Einstein via Slideshare]

‘That’s easy for you to say Albert!’

 

Science is essentially what we have always done to get by in trying to figure things out and find a better way:

  • Millions of years ago, our primate ancestors who first set foot on the savannahs of Africa, were experimenting with habitat, hunting and tools in order to adapt and survive.
  • Eventually, humans developed agriculture, civilisation and writing which defined the Holocene.  In Ancient Greece free-thinking, mathematics and astronomy blossomed, however, not until 2 millennia later did the scientific method, led by Newton, become established following the explosion of ideas during the renaissance.
  • Then came the Industrial Revolution with dramatic technological and social change. Charles Darwin, a product of this era, suffered crippling anxiety, exacerbated by fear of repercussions of his findings that species evolved by natural selection. Unfortunately, all I remotely knew about him until my own belated scientific renaissance, was that Darwinism was some radical ideology.

 

My own slow path to science

I’m one of many who’ve questioned the point of algebra or the word ‘scientist’ conjuring up images of wild-haired nutty professors.

ein tong  [Source: Wikipedia]

‘Yes, my thoughts exactly Albert’

 

I’ve always been fascinated by the origin and vastness of space, regretfully I didn’t do Maths or Science in Year 12. I didn’t get reacquainted with science until my late 30s when profound questions about life plagued my mind, leading me on an insatiable quest for knowledge. After dozens of books and documentaries on science and history, I realised how ignorant I was. Next thing, I had enrolled in a Bachelor of Science.

Nothing prepared me, however, for the depth and complexity of science that ensued at tertiary level. Whether it’s Physics, Bio, Chem, Geology or Stats, one year into my degree has only confirmed that grasping the complex layers of scientific knowledge is indeed difficult and seemingly out of reach of most. I had found reason to finally embrace science but how do we help others unlock the key to doing so, or at least better understand it?

 

The story of science must be told

ein simp  [Source: Einstein – Quotescloud]

‘Let’s start with Quantum Mechanics shall we!’

 

Before Deakin, I had attended a Brisbane Science Conference headlined by Tim Flannery, discussing the need for the story telling of science to engage the public. Amongst the speakers and audience was a sense of bewilderment that the public at large were disengaged and had such poor scientific knowledge.

bris sci Nick ‏@skyvalley9  3 February 2014, Storytelling of Science in Brisbane. RT @LaLaLausy ASC14 [Source: Twitter] 

 

Science is ideally presented and accessed at a level appropriate to the individual or audience. The goal is to continue to engage and inspire the public with great story telling as Alan Alda is so passionately encouraging scientists and science enthusiasts like myself to do. In addition, we must encourage critical thinking, accept probability and randomness, and educate the media on what constitutes scientific theory and evidence.

aldaPeople must be shown how pertinent science is to their everyday lives and to the long-term survival of the human race. My own path to becoming scientifically literate has been very slow and delayed due to misconceptions and not having reason to embrace it. Science struggles to effectively communicate complex ideas in the face of misinformation, pseudoscience and ideology. Technological innovation made possible by science ironically provides a digital platform to counter its own established ideas. Advancing technology also makes it more likely to bring about our own extinction if used recklessly, yet only it has the means to save us from disease, catastrophic natural disasters, as well as an escape route before the sun eventually swallows Earth.

 


#Edits – subheadings, changing structure/order, and improving theme and cohesion

References

Alan Alda National Press Club Address 2016, TV program, ABC1, retrieved 4 April 2016, < http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-10/actor-alan-alda-addresses-the-national-press-club/7238316 >

Alda, A 2016, Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, retrieved 3 April 2016, < http://www.centerforcommunicatingscience.org >

Bronowski, J 1973, DVD, The Ascent of Man, BBC, UK

DeGrasse Tyson, N 2014, DVD, Cosmos A Spacetime Odyssey, Cosmos Studios, US

Hawking, S 2010, DVD, Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking, Discovery Channel, US

Roberts, A 2010, DVD, The Incredible Human Journey, BBC, UK

Sagan, C 1980, DVD, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Cosmos Studios, US

Thomson, K 2009, DVD, Darwin’s Brave New World, ABC, Australia

 

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3 comments on “Slow Birth of Science

  1. jkanjodeakin
    April 9, 2016

    Wish I had something to add . . . This is an excellent blog post!

    Congratulations on changing the course of your destiny, and embracing the challenges presented by tertiary education and Science.

    Be proud, and never stop learning!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. skyvalley9
    April 9, 2016

    Thanks for your inspiring words!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Adam
    April 28, 2016

    Hi Nick,

    I really like the idea behind this blog and think it has some great things to say. I am a big proponent of storytelling as a communication tool.

    As with your other blog I think it could flow a bit better. I think it might help if you take a step back and think about the story you are trying to ‘sell’. What are the three main points you are trying to get across? That science is missunderstood, that no-one is a lost cause (your story), that there are ways to make it better.

    It can be useful to put all the main points on sticky notes and then place them in order so that they flow into a nice story.

    I think if you are able to clearly understand the purpose of the blog you will be able to refine it’s clarity.

    All the best,
    Adam

    Like

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This entry was posted on April 9, 2016 by in Burwood - Thursday 2pm.

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