Sunday, February 24, 2013

5 O'Clock

It’s five o’clock. You just got home from work. You walk into the kitchen, grab an ice, cold coke, and plop yourself down on the couch. As you flip on the TV, Jenny McCarthy’s and Jim Carrey’s enticing voices fill your living room. You quickly become captivated by their heartbreaking story of how vaccines caused their poor son to get Autism. You watch as Jenny’s eyes swell up with tears and can’t help but to be enraged by Doctors everywhere. “I will never, ever”, you find yourself saying out loud “give my child a vaccine!”
            There is one issue with this scene: there is NO link between vaccines and autism. This fact has be proved time and time again in numerous studies. Why, you may ask, do McCarthy and Carrey still believe there is? Even worse, who allowed them to spread potentially very harmful falsehood to the public?
            Well, there is one main culprit in this situation: the scientific community. First off, scientists do not make their findings accessible to the public. They often release important results, such as the lack of linkage between autism and vaccines, in reports that are filled with complicated scientific jargon. This results in non-scientific people, such as McCarthy and Carrey, trying to understand the results. Sadly though, these people simply do not have the tools or the know-how to understand ever part of a study. They are not ignorant but they are merely not an expertise in a scientific field, which is the majority of the public. The wrong interpretations of the non-scientific people though, are the ones that are shared with the public, therefore spreading harmful falsehoods. Even when these falsehoods become a common belief the scientific community still fails to address it in an understandable way.
            As a scientific writer, it is my along with other scientific writer’s responsibility to ensure that these falsehoods no longer persist. We need to be the intermediate between the scientists and their jargon filled-studies and curious, information, seeking public. Translating the science writing and making it available to the public via science writers in social media sources is the only way to ensure that correct facts are distributed to the public. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Follow Me On Twitter!

Now, I am usually the person who is all for the new and exciting crazes, whether it is the latest Jeffrey Campbell shoe, the up-and-coming underground rap group, or the new hit Broadway show. One trend that I completely missed though, was twitter. When it came out I thought it was the worst idea ever. Why would I or anyone else in the world want to know what everyone was doing constantly? I don’t really care that @teenageboy had the new McRib from McDonalds or that @highschoolgirl noticed that the popular girl wore missed matching socks on day. Slowly though, my hatred for twitter, tweeting, and twit-picing diminished and after a year of an over-whelming amount of peer-pressure and increasing curiosity I decided to get a one.
My recent step into the twitter world has made me realize one thing about our society: information is accessible.  You can log on to twitter and see what NBC news is covering at any second. You can scroll through your news feed and see a video of the latest presidential address. You can even meander through Tumlbr and read different people’s opinion about anything under the sun. This realization led me to wonder though, if in this day and age, where information can be found in mere milliseconds, why isn’t science more wide-spread?
While going through my endless number of social media accounts, I found my answer: science isn’t available through popular social media. Most of the time, scientific news, like new findings, are released to the public in very complicated jargon that only an expert in the field can understand. Due to this, the news rarely makes it to social media, therefore rarely reaches millions of potential readers. Even if the news does reach Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. it is usually misconstrued therefore spreading false information to the public.
Even though this issue of the inaccessibility of science is prevalent, the solution is very simple. The first step is to step away from only using the language of scientists. This jargon is acceptable when talking to fellow researchers, but when releasing studies to the public they must be simplified in order to ensure that the majority of the public understands the findings. The second step is to make science more exciting. Science currently is presented in a very dry manner, which repels a good amount of the public. If science were made exciting, then people would not only be drawn to it but they would also remember it. The third and final step is to connect the science to an average person’s life. The scientific community must state why the public should care about an issue, even it’s as far fetch and weird as quantum physics. If these steps – simplify, excite, and connect – occur then science will begin to inch into the world of social media, and before we know it, it will be as wide spread as an Instragram picture of food. As science spread more, the more scientific literate our society will become as a whole, which would result in a more progressive, innovative, and all over beneficial society. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

What happen to Bill Nye the Science Guy?

“I HATE SCIENCE!” was my thirteen-year old brother’s response when I asked him how he felt about school and the classes he’s currently taking. As a scientist myself I cringed at the thought that someone with similar DNA as me could even utter those words, but I held back my urge to yell at him and instead inquired why. He explained that unlike english or social studies, science was just an over-load of random facts that he was forced to memorize. He ended our conversation by hopelessly saying “science just isn’t fun…”
            As I hung up the phone I stood there bewildered. How did my own brother think that science, the subject that is everywhere and probably the closest thing we have to true magic, isn’t fun?! I remember when he used to come home from kindergarten and explain to me for hours how the dinosaurs died or how our heart pumps blood. Where, I wondered, did that pure passion go?
            After a few moments of pondering these questions, it hit me. My brother’ view of science, along with millions of other kids’ views on science is extremely misinformed. This misinformed view that science is horribly boring and pointless begins around middle school. In third grade most kids have their first real science class. These classes aren’t about discovering though, but instead are based on reading boring textbooks and then filling in bubbles for hours on end in order to get that perfect A+. Slowly but surely through the influence of teacher, parents, and many other adult figures, the kids become robots who sit there as scientific facts go in one ear and our the other and then utter the horrendous phrase of "I hate science".
            How, you may ask, do we combat this issue of hatred? Simple. We encourage kids to discover. We no longer squash their passion with boring facts and tests but instead foster their innocent need to wonder, observe, and discover. We must stop presenting scientific studies in a sleep-inducing, passive-voice, jargon-fileld format and begin making them into readable, exciting mysteries whose solutions advance and better our society and the world as a whole.  Only when we make this switch will the norm feeling for science shift from being hatred to the original five-year-old-like love and passion for it.