Phatic Sci-Comm

“Hello, how are you?” “Not too bad. And yourself?” “Oh, mustn’t grumble” This, and countless variations like it, is a common exchange between two people. The enquiries about health and welfare are not really requests to get access to medical information, nor are the responses attempts to give proper answers. Very occasionally this opening exchange might be taken as an opportunity to talk about an especially dramatic or important event (recent wedding, holiday, death etc) but most times it simply renews the bond between the speakers. Much (maybe even most) everyday conversation is built upon these kinds of “phatic” statements … Continue reading Phatic Sci-Comm

Sci-Comm: What is to be done?

Science communication has failed Rearranging the furniture in the White House are a President who said climate change was a hoax, and a Vice-President who does not accept the theory of evolution. The rest of Trump’s cabinet is an equally deplorable bunch when it comes to science (or, indeed, anything else when it comes to being decent and humane). I’m not blaming science communication for the election of Trump. But Trump’s Presidency is evidence that science communication has failed. You might say that this has little to do with science communication, that Trump won the election on other issues but … Continue reading Sci-Comm: What is to be done?

3G Science Communication

We now have 4G (or it is 5G?) phones. Maybe it’s time we moved on to 3G science communication. The marketing exercise that often passes for science communication is clearly recognisable as a first generation model. Still running on the “deficit” operating system this 1G model was programmed to look for “effectiveness” and “right” answers. Some scientists had problems with reception but you could always turn up the volume. Second generation science communication came with extra capacity for a “dialogue” between science and the public. The PEST operating system for 2G scicomm tried to introduce the “engagement” app, but many … Continue reading 3G Science Communication

Nothing Left to Invent: Victorian visions of the future

In 1898 one correspondent to Cassell’s Saturday Journal felt able to write “We seem to be so up‑to‑date nowadays that I don’t see that there is really much else to be invented.” And who could have argued with them? A surfeit of wonders, `latest improvements’, and `startling developments’ had brought a nation to expect a new advance on an almost daily basis. “…the times in which we live may well be called the `age of invention’”, reported one magazine. “Never before, it would seem, have men so ardently studied the secrets of nature, and turned the knowledge thus acquired to … Continue reading Nothing Left to Invent: Victorian visions of the future

A Manifesto for Teaching Engineers

Given the choice I much prefer a manifesto to a mission statement though I suppose they amount to much the same thing. Maybe it’s simply a preference for the radical over the corporatist. The Communist Mission Statement does not quite have the same ring to it. I was prompted to write my own manifesto after coming across one for the teaching and learning of radical history put together by Richard Kennett (@kenradical). What struck me immedidately was how easy it would be to apply this to all kinds of subject area. Wherever you see the word “history” just drop in … Continue reading A Manifesto for Teaching Engineers

The Autonomous Science Machine

Landing on a comet is a remarkable achievement. Even though the Rosetta mission had its problems we will still learn a great deal about comets, the solar system, maybe even about life on Earth. We can also use the Rosetta mission to comet 67P as a way to examine science itself. To do that, I want to look at Philae (ie the piece of equipment that landed on the comet) and a garish shirt. To start with the shirt. Project scientist Matt Taylor gave an interview to the world’s media wearing a shirt with pictures of hypersexualised semi-naked women on … Continue reading The Autonomous Science Machine