Archive | September 2012

A Little Thought about Science Communication

The word of “Science,” compared to the words like “Art,” “Food,” “Music,” “Movie,” etc, is dull and bored for many people. I still remember every time I took part in dancing parties or various kinds of salons during my undergraduate time, when people came to me and asked my major, my answer always made them surprised, ” Wow, physics? that is too profound for me.” –this is the most often response I received. And then it is not hard to imagine that almost nobody would like to continue any further talk with me about the topic of my major.

On the contrary to this situation, almost every day when I was a Ph.D. student, I could find my advisor’s excitement in physics research either from the email he just sent me or from the later talk during the daily coffee time. The most common word my advisor used to describe science is “beautiful.” Science is beautiful and interesting in his eyes, because he could see those fantastic scientific phenomena and the reasons behind it, and because he could see principles or rules in the science world, which make everything ordered and harmonious, and also could create new things that benefit people’s lives if  used properly. Because he know how to appreciate science.

You see, people have two completely different attitudes toward the same thing, why? Some may argue that, it is because, for every kind of thing, there are always some people who like it and others who do not. Well, for me, this explanation may be part of the reasons, but not all. Sometimes, attitude could be changed. Have you ever liked someone that maybe you disliked or even hated at the very beginning? Have you suddenly known how to appreciate a kind of music or food that you may not have much interest when you first time got to them? I think people start to like something when they could find interesting points inside it, and when they could see beauty of it. Thus, interest is the most powerful motivation.

Science is beautiful in scientists’ eyes, but is dull and bored for many general people, which is because the language of science is too obscure and hard to approach for common people, and thus set up a fence in front of them. And the duty of science communicator is to open a door on the fence, or to build a bridge between science and general audiences, which make general public feel easier to access the world of science and appreciate its beauty.

As for how to achieve effective science communications, there are tons of researches and investigations in this area. As I just put, I personally think interest is the most important element. When communicating science to general public, could we adopt a more interesting way or could we show the beauty of science more directly and vividly so that it could easily arise people’s interest to follow? When I first time watched the movie of ” Men in Black,” it started my interest to explore a little bit more about astronomy or cosmology in spare time. I do not mean we have to use some “fancy factors” like science fiction when communicating science,  but trying to make science more accessible and “colorful” instead of “dull”is surely to have positive impact on attracting people’s eyes on science.

Moreover, “interest’ does not only mean attracting eye balls, but it also means “usefulness.” (Thanks to my science communication seminar course, I could have chance to reflect more about this aspect through discussion with colleagues)Science is a kind of knowledge that could also bring practical benefits to people’s lives.When people encountered problems or difficulty in daily life, they would automatically turn to somewhere for help. For example, if your car always has some unknown problems, except for sending it to auto repair company, you may want to figure out what happens to your car and how to maintain your car. Then, checking instruction books or consulting repair company staffs and learning some knowledge about mechanism may be kinds of way people may want to do to solve their problem. Another example also involves that, knowlege of nutrition and health may be interesting for women who like keeping fit and pay attention to beauty. 

Thus, when communicating science to the public, if we could make people realize that the knowledge of science is relevant to their lives or things that they are concerned and is quite useful, then people may be more interested in getting to know science.