Poke your world

by Stephanie Chasteen on May 11, 2007

istock_000002184553xsmall.jpgSomeone said to me recently that their interest in the science of everyday life stems from their natural curiosity, their desire to “poke the world.” I liked that.

My interest in science is totally hedonistic. I like to learn stuff. There are lots of people like me. I think we find it sometimes hard to relate to people who aren’t driven by that curiosity. How do we reach them?

Of course, keeping science concrete and related to life is important. Science is something we do, after all, it’s an action. It’s not a set of static facts, but a method of gathering knowledge about the world.

Bringing science to people where they are — to the public square, to popular magazines, is also important. For example, why can’t I shower after getting a perm? There’s a good chemistry lesson lurking in there!

Other good examples of bringing science to the public square are the work of Jennifer Ouellette, who wrote the popular Physics of the Buffyverse (using Buffy the Vampire Slayer to teach about science). Also, Tim Gay, who taught 1 minute physics lessons during the game breaks at Nebraska football games. What a challenge.

{ 2 comments }

Lorenzo E. Danielsson June 1, 2007 at 6:10 pm

One think I’ve noticed is how we have different motivations for things that we do. For instance I enjoy solving math problems. Don’t ask me why, I just do. My wife thinks I’m weird because of this since, after all, it’s not something that I’m earning money from. In her mind it would be better for me to use that time to program, which I do earn an income from.

She has a business mind, wants everything to be profitable. I, on the other hand, see thing completely different. I really enjoy the work I do, otherwise I don’t think I could do it. I don’t really see myself going to work everyday simply because of the money I earn. I need something that challenges me, makes me think.

Unfortunately I don’t have any people like me in my immediate surroundings. So I spend most of my time alone. But I do see that questioning, curious stance towards the world in my children, so there’s hope for the future.

sciencegeekgirl June 8, 2007 at 5:26 pm

I also enjoy solving math problems… I enjoy solving problems of many types. I’ve recently gotten into rock climbing — it appeals to me in part because it’s one big problem, combining the contraints of gravity, friction, and counterforces. There are many people like Lorenzo and I, with restless and curious minds. I have daily contact with them at the Exploratorium, and they abound in the SF Bay Area. I often wonder how spoiled I am, to be here, and how much my view of the average American is skewed by this.

Lorenzo’s comment about motivation is very astute. Some people have a more practical orientation towards life (like his wife and paid employment). For her, perhaps, it’s important to do things that earn money, since money is a means to do other enjoyable things. For him, however, the curious mathematical play is an end in itself, since it is enjoyment in itself.
Not everyone enjoys mathematical or scientific play. How do we reach folks like Lorenzo’s wife, who would benefit from understanding science, but it is not an end in itself?

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