21 January 2012

Improving the public image of science

I think sometimes about how to improve the public image of science. There are a million things going on in people's lives, things that worry them; children have so many ways of occupying their time, whether it's sports, Facebook, or video games.

I want people to believe that science literacy is important the way that reading is. You wouldn't tell someone you can't read. Yet people have no problem saying that they're "not good at math."

I want to see people doing amateur science whether it's on the computer, looking at stars, or performing experiments. I see all these people buying $500+ dSLR cameras. Thanks to the advances in digital photography and the huge drop in the price of equipment, anyone is capable of taking pro level photos if they work at their skills [1].

Some ideas I have
  1. Take better photos of scientists. I've never really seen many good portraits of scientists [2]. On that note, why can't we make a documentary or a music video that will convince people that scientists are heroes?
  2. Get the public more involved in science. Make them feel like they can make a contribution.  We need more initiatives like Galaxy Zoo.
  3. Find ways to get children more interested in science. Maybe high school kids could be allowed to write software for the library. Have kids do Make Magazine projects.
  4. Show people how they can use science and math to great benefit in their lives. I have to admit, I don't really know how to do this. I've always liked how you can use statistics to expose cheating in polls and things of that nature.
[1] Not that I'm saying amateurs are actually pros.  The professionals can take a much higher percentage of good photos than an amateur can.
[2] This one from the New York Times is not bad for an environmental portrait.

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