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How do we make science cooler?

Image credit: unsplash.com/@thisisengineering

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Sep 24, 2020
How do we make being a successful scientist/engineer the ultimate social status symbol?

If the general public regarded successful scientists and engineers as superstars the young generations would grow up striving to achieve intellectual breakthroughs rather than spending their years of peak potential building specific knowledge on videogame streaming, youtube/tik-tok algorithms, and the likes.

Sure, kids get to learn about the types of Marie Curie, Nikola Tesla, etc., in a lecture or two, but they get bombarded with Kanye, Bieber, etc., all day, every day. Based on what society regards as exposure-worthy, whose success/status will the young ones strive to repeat?

Elon Musk is a good example of how society should increase exposure for people who do great things for humanity. George Church is another great example of an intellectual superstar, but most kids have never heard of him. How do we change that?

What needs to happen for humanity to start idolizing people who move the boundaries of science/engineering?

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Break the language barrier

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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Oct 07, 2020
A lot of times, people will find science uninteresting not because science is so, but because they cannot comprehend it owing to the language used. Since most if not all of the scientific theories, discoveries and breakthroughs are dominated by the English culture, people who do not know English are at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to doing science. Given my own experience, in the place where I come from ( a remote place in a village district inside the hills of Nepal), English is still considered a tough thing to learn. In my part of the world, to understand English and have fluency is still considered a sign of higher intelligence (which it obviously is not). As such, people are intimidated by English- even more so when the language is used to explain complex physical and natural phenomena with heavily loaded jargons and phrases. I had a friend from Afghanistan in my MSc class who used to have a really tough time getting along all the processes and terms explained in academic English as he had had his undergraduate education totally in Arabic. In such subtle ways, language barriers can make science really 'uncool' sometimes. To get over this barrier and make science more accessible to even the farthest corners of the third-world, we have to start producing scientific communication in languages that are not foreign to the target audience. Across each culture and societies, we can route for organised translation of the scientific literature-at least the fundamental ones- into as many languages as possible. Imagine a kid in a remote village at Uttar Pradesh in India learning about photosynthesis in his local language. This will have a positive impact on multiple levels: the kid will find science more relatable and fun to study, it will equally engage his family members who would otherwise be left out of the scientific discourse had the material been on English. Moreover, it will also open up chances for contextualization of scientific thinking and make people accept scientific facts more readily, reducing the coercion between the scientific process and their traditional cultural values.
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nanapublicbgosh3 months ago
science porn. connect the stupid brain with the smart brain. there could be calculus porn too.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
I very much agree with you and would love to see language-independent science outreach. I think I can identify why that rarely happens. Learning in your native language and performing professionally are two different things that seldom go together. You may learn in your native language but when it comes to getting a job, you have limited options since most of the jobs require one of the more common languages. For example, we started gathering papers for a systematic meta-analysis a few months back. We had to reject papers that were not in English for the only reason that we could not understand them. I am sure the authors had done a wonderful job with their research, but they published them in a language most others do not understand. Similar to what we did, others, too, might have rejected that paper just because it was not in English. If your work does not reach more people from your professional community, it is hard for you to grow. You might remain local in this global world. There are those who do not want to get global. But for the majority, that is not the case. Even the governments, then, enforce education in English. In India, schools teach science and maths in the native languages, but few universities provide that option. Most students who studied science in schools in the native language then shift to English in their under-grad years.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic7 months ago
My native language has only 2 million speakers. I find it sad that my kids don't yet understand English well enough to be able to learn from shows like SciShow kids https://www.youtube.com/user/scishowkids. Instead, we make use of what we have available in our tiny language. They love a 30-year-old show from my childhood https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKA5gFYiX2BUjoWyvmeWXGHA2N-QjMDyi that got translated into Slovenian. My son knows every episode by heart and teaches his younger sister how the immune system works - or rather was known to work, 30 years ago:)

Parents don't know what children could be pointed toward

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 09, 2020
If you are lucky you are born to well-educated parents who have plenty of time and patience to point you in all the useful directions to help you cultivate your explorative nature.

I imagine most of us though are born into random environments and get influenced by random events. What are the chances your role models would be looking into advancing humankind? What are the chances your parents understood how science works and why we need it? Mine didn't. At a very young age, I expressed the desire to study genetics but they didn't know how to distinguish it from all my other interests and how to help me cultivate it. It took me 30 years before I realized I probably should have done it then.

Had this been one of my bedtime stories I would understand right from the start that physics is amazing and the basis of everything. My son loves to listen to me explain what I learned today.

by giving science the tools

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Martina Pesce
Martina Pesce Oct 22, 2020
  • Events such as "Pint of science" should be in every single city
  • Holding festivals of popular science at very cool/significant locations (for example Festival della Scienza)
  • Movies such as “the imitation game” and “the theory of everything” show the human side of scientists often seen as typical nerds and make it easier to relate to them as just humans
  • Having their job better paid: economic status is a thing
  • Netflix is doing good with the "explained” thing: all the streaming platform should imitate
  • Having scientists as guests in talk shows
  • Scientist and research centers on social networks (I’d actually say here we are on a good path already)
  • Collaboration between scientists and influencers
  • Having at least some research building in the center of cities and not just in the suburbs
  • The scientific research language has to be English. Popular science language doesn't have to and shouldn't be, because (as said above many times) you start by educating the kids. All of them, not just the lucky ones who know English.

Science needs storytellers

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Nitish
Nitish Mar 25, 2021
Science has always been a little difficult subject compared to others such as philosophy, arts, culture etc. Stories or the art of reciting the events in the form of stories has been the major contributor to our cerebral capabilities. The human brain has evolved to understand better if dictated in a structured or simply in the form of stories. Science lacks these virtues somewhere; therefore, a large human population believes in fictional stories rather than scientific facts. Moreover, the terminologies, names or scientific phenomenons are harder to grasp by the layman. Hence, if we want to connect more people with science, we should change the way of teaching it first. Science needs storytellers who can connect it with the commoners.

Feed the curiosity of the kids

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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Sep 24, 2020
I remember reading Isaac Asimov's essay 'How to make a scientist' in which he says that a person can never do good science unless he/she is 'pathologically curious'. So, how do we instil such curiosity into the young minds of our world so that they would grow up to be inventors and creators and knowledge producers of the best kind? The first solution lies in inspiring our children to think in terms of process rather than the product. Often, kids are reluctant to do science because the society predisposes them with a priori notions like 'only intelligent people can do science', or 'science is a subject too tough to understand' which is untrue and counterproductive. In fact, if we could tap into the creative and curious potential of the children, science can be the most fun thing that one experiences. How can this be done? Start with teaching in a better way. Formulae are obviously boring; hence, use demonstrations and hands-on experiments. Rather than making kids remember water's boiling point, bring a small burner and a pot and a thermometer to the classroom and show them how the mercury rises when we start heating the water. Give them ample space for imagination and entertain even the funniest, most weird explanations they might have for any given physical phenomenon. Give answers, but be Socratic enough and leave room for their own exploration. Keep the process going. More: let the kids realize that science is not a subject but a process. Make them understand that biology and chemistry and physics are not discrete subjects, but the same phenomenons manifest in different levels, and contexts. Be frank enough and make the kids fall in love with the science and scientific process. Teach them the art of asking the right questions. Only when the kids love it with all their hearts, they can do science. Otherwise, it just becomes a monotonous job of mugging up bizarre things that don't make sense at all. Give independent, non-verbal assignments to the kids. Example: Ask your students to record the position of the moon each night at the exact same time every night for a few months. Make them understand the repeating pattern of the moon's coming and going each month. Do not reveal, but help them realize. Another example: Ask your students to record the growth of their houseplants each week and ask them to record different plants according to the seasons. There can be several other such DIY sciencing experiments that will make the kids engaged in the scientific process not just in the school but at their homes. On top of these, there are other add ons to make science cool: audio-visual teaching-learning; incentivized in-group competitions, co-operative project building, excursions and more. Whatever the method, the aim must be to make children more imaginative and curious such that rather than being intimidated by science, they start enjoying it and begin searching for their own answers. Once that curiosity is incited, a person automatically will develop the attitude needed to be a good scientist.
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Spook Louw
Spook Louwa month ago
I agree with this 100%.

All the STEM fields have fallen into the age-old trap of false sovereignty. Science has become something you learn, not something you do.

Personally, I think it is because of the divorce of philosophy from all of these subjects. Physics, mathematics, biology, all of these fields are meant to be creative and exciting, yet they are introduced as strict and boring subjects at school. This is what's killing science.

Consider Einstein's theory of relativity, it was barely noticed when he first published it because he did not accept the presumptions made by physicists at the time. He was creative, he often used imagery to explain his points. He had to! It was the only way to explain them to everyone else.

I think if we can bring back the philosophical elements of the scientific fields we can make science cool again.

Combining science with art

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 01, 2020
  1. Music: For instance, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydqReeTV_vk. A cool video explaining a number of science concepts. I remember one of my school professors made us sing the trigonometry formulae (to tunes of well-known songs) and that helped remember them.
  2. Art: Sci-art - https://www.sciartex.net/, http://www.sciartinitiative.org/
Promoting such events will make science cooler.

Videographers, pick your favorite scientist and make them a star

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 05, 2020
Scientists working on cutting edge research have a ton of great content at their disposal. They might not have the time, the skill, or the desire to be superstars. But they need to - for the younger generations.

So, what if all the videography work was done by others while the scientist/star only needs to find the time and a story on a regular enough basis?

Videographers:
  1. pick your favorite scientist
  2. look into their recent work, pick something interesting
  3. send the soon to be a star a message about conducting an interview about said work
  4. produce a good piece of mini-documentary, make the scientist and their work look amazing
  5. repeat
Voila, you have a great video series, a worthy person is in the spotlight, you are doing good for humanity and the future will be amazing.

Prospect of an exciting future

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Nov 22, 2020
See this video from 1:05 onwards and hear the story of Zhijan James Chen, the scientist who elucidated how DNA triggers immune and autoimmune responses from the interior of a cell through the discovery of the DNA-sensing enzyme cGAS.

There was a saying in his area "If you learn math, physics and chemistry then you can explore the whole world.". He very much wanted that. It got him into the world of science.

Make science cool by making it modern and up-to-date

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Juran Jan 25, 2021
"Normal people" usually rely on old well-established and generally accepted rules and findings. Most of the people undoubtedly believe in God, because it exists "since the beginning" and it was always here unchanged. The same happens with the good old theory-based science, especially in biology. It may not be as old as God, but scientists were really smart two or five centuries ago. We learn every day from their experimental results and it is considered immature and "crazy" to challenge some of the well-known theorems. For example, most people would, if not forced, rather try the "old" medicines than novel COVID-19 vaccines to cure the new disease.

Since kindergarten, we are thought that some things are just the way they are. But as soon as we enter university, ... the same things continue to happen. Brave individuals, led by brave mentors, sometimes dare to challenge the "impossible" and not so rarely it results in a ground-breaking discovery. The phenomenon appears more frequently when you enter the competing R&D world of industry.

To get back to the point - to make science cooler, science should go modern. It should give you all the info about the past, teach you how to observe and evaluate the present, and "give you the tools and the balls" to dare the future.

Scientists should be cool like in CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) series. To be like Horatio, we need AI-power, computational tools, space technology in the lab, fast and efficient system that gives us the opportunity to present and explore the world in the most recent and efficient way. Experiments in primary school should not be so basic like electrophoresis of the water anymore. We need to teach kids that different times are now. (The best example of the lagging science is the conventional taxonomy, discussed in comments on the session.)

It´s slowly happening and kids are starting to learn programming at an early age. But programming is still not science, but a tool. Kids could and should use more technology to learn! (so should the students :D)

What they see is what they want

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Mar 21, 2021
In a study published in The Sun , three-quarters of Gen Z and Millennials surveyed want to become YouTubers as their most desired career. These are the results for the remaining options:

This reflects society's prorities as portrad in the media.

[1]https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3617062/children-turn-backs-on-traditional-careers-in-favour-of-internet-fame-study-finds/

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