In Which Onward Educates on the State of Science
I’ll admit it, I came back from Spring Break missing a few thousand brain cells. The subsequent hangover left me feeling particularly worthless. So this month I decided to do something with my life, and put down the sauce for a couple days to get focused. After a ‘dry’ run of an article that never saw the light of day (it was awesome, I swear), the editor of this website was successfully duped into thinking I should be a content contributor.
This Week: Science Journalist Gives Seminar To Boring Scientists, Inspires Youth
In the always bubbly room of 112 Walker, I attended a talk entitled “6 Things Scientists Can Learn from Science Journalists”. I would have never been aware of this if I hadn’t been actively seeking out events I could attend as a writer. They need to be better advertised.
When I enter, the first thing I notice is that I am the youngest person there by at least a couple years. I’m glad to see an old professor of mine on the other side of the room.
The room is about half full by the time the obligatory ‘person with a microphone’ starts talking. The speaker is standing behind her, next to a podium in between twin screens with a PowerPoint pulled up.
The speaker is a woman, who is introduced as Maggie Koerth-Baker, to a round of respectful applause. She is the Science Editor for a BoingBoing.net, a website I saw for the first time last week.
Baker was a competent speaker and kept me interested, at least. There was some dude in the front row blatantly typing an email on his phone. He literally had the phone in front of him at eye level and was using his pointer to peck every single letter. I don’t think my old professor was amused. It must have been important.
It’s hard to maintain a crowd’s attention for 45 minutes. Some people just don’t have the attention span. She learned, from comments on her articles, the depth of knowledge you could provide before it became boring.Baker did her best to remain both informative and entertaining; ironically her message is that scientists need to do the same. She encouraged the audience to be not just entertaining but responsible.
The drama lies in that there is a competing faction for the scientific niche of the public’s attention – Pseudoscience. These ‘shocking’ articles (often times with “First” or “New” in the title) are always meant to elicit an emotional response, which for science is a dangerous game.
A rational person can admit that emotion clouds judgment. Not everyone is rational and even those who are aren’t that way all of the time. When forming opinions in this informational age, it is important to consider the source as well as the content of the message. Nobody else is going to make that distinction for you.
After the speech there was the usual Q&A, which was unusually long and disinteresting. As everyone was filing out, I made my way to the podium. After I compliment her on her speech and we introduce ourselves, I ask her what the difference is between a science blogger and a science journalist, and where she sees herself.
“Well, I’m definitely a blogger when I post a video and say, ‘Look at the cute kitty!’”, as she laughs and does a little jig before getting serious, “but a journalist is on the scene, collecting a story.” I left inspired.
Being that this is my first story in this series, I want to leave you with a little disclaimer. These forthcoming posts are intended as entertainment. If I failed you, I’m sorry. Let me have it. I’ve heard worse. I just ask that you also include how I can get better, and I’ll do my best to listen.
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About the Author
Penn State ranked just outside the top 100 in this year’s Forbes’ list of the top colleges in the United States.
Students, faculty, and staff should update their Windows, Mac, iPhone, and Linux devices before they return to campus.
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