Foreign lands

When I was a teenager my family went to Paris for the weekend. We were proper tourists doing all the usual sightseeing; a boat trip down the Seine, climbing the Eiffel Tower and marvelling at the dangerous driving around the Arc de Triomphe. My grasp of the French language is tres terrible and my knowledge of the culture & history is basic at best. I came away from the trip with some good memories of landmarks but no depth of understanding the city. The richness and subtleties eluded me.

Science for many people is a foreign land. To get the full picture you need to understand the thinking, history and language. And if a person is not mathematically fluent then the richness of the subject will be sadly missed and the opportunity to fully participate will be lacking. The beauty and the beast of science is that it’s based on maths.  Maths for so many is a memory of fear and failure. It can become an exclusive members club for those that can.

As a science communicator I want to open up new wonderful lands for my audiences to explore. So much of what ‘sci comm’currently offers can be seen as open top bus tour of the key landmarks presented with a barrage of facts and quirky trivia. With the audience hopping on and off at will because there’s no connection or destination to aim for. We see this with the “whizz bang” shows filled with explosions and other wow demos. At the end of an entertaining hour of flashes & bangs we’ve learnt nothing of note and have no desire or tools to explore further.

The challenge is to equip the audience with knowledge, skills and tools BUT most importantly a desire to become explorers.

I became a scientist when as a curious child I started to do mini experiments around the house and garden, not when I graduated from university.