Tag Archives: science communication

Communication Woes: Every young couple in love… on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The other day a friend asked me what my favourite picture was.

I had to think for a few minutes. Hmm.

I have beef with some art. Sometimes I just don’t get it.

I once stood in the national portrait gallery looking at something abstract. I was trying to see the merit of it, to see if I could “get it”. I really was trying. But I found myself saying out loud, “Well, this is bollocks”.

I was more surprised when an older aristocratic looking lady standing nearby me, wearing a wide brimmed hat and matching dress, suddenly said “Yes. Yes, I think you’re right.” and walked off.

Aaanyway, that’s not really my point.

What I actually answered with was: The pale blue dot.

Now, if you’re a (big?) popular science fan, you probably already know what the pale blue dot is. But if you don’t “The pale blue dot” is a picture taken by Voyager-1 in 1990, when it was almost 4 billion miles from Earth. That’s it, just there on the right.

See that little bluish-white speck about half way up the brownish stripe?

That’s us. Everyone.

I’m thinking this picture is my test. But before I say more about that, let me quote the late Carl Sagan, who convinced NASA to take the picture. His words describe what this means far better than mine ever would. Continue reading


Being Ben Goldacre’d…

Gah!

Retweeted by Ben Goldacre. Destroyer of bandwidth and blogs.

This little blog, which I originally wasn’t going to advertise especially, suddenly went from trundling along at about 20 views/day to a spike of 2.5k…

Do you know what that does to my visitor stats? Do you? It makes my normal stats imperceptible noise.

Continue reading


Coffee shops, science and interviews

It’s odd.

Not quite real yet.

I feel like it’s the weekend, not like some “new era” in my life.

Yesterday, after waking up wondering what day it is and setting this blog up, I decided I’d go and join the ranks of people who hang about in Starbucks with their laptops out doing important stuff.

It seemed like a reasonable idea at the time.

I discovered 5 things:

  1. In Oxford it’s wall to wall students. They are pretending to work. Really it’s the 21st centuries equivalent of hiding a comic in a text book. You give off an air of busyness, but really they’re all just procrasti-facebooking
  2. Coffee goes colder quicker than you’d think when you’re trying to work. I hate cold coffee
  3. I feel guilty if I don’t get a new coffee within 10 min of finishing the last. This may be my own unique brand of stupidity, or just one of the many socially crippling effects of being English. I’m not sure.
  4. Constantly buying coffee at £2.50 is a good way to bankrupt yourself
  5. Despite the cost and people, you can actually get some work done

Straight after this I went to the Oxford SciBar, a monthly event I help organise where we get a scientist (or similar) in to do a 30min chat for the general public about whatever interesting science they’re up to at the moment, at the pub. It’s great, we get people ranging from window cleaners and graphic designers to retirees and they all get a chance to ask questions in an informal atmosphere. Chatting to them afterwards is always fun too, to get thier perspective and questions.

This month it was a guy calle Jan De Neve from University College London, an economist and behavioural scientist. The topic? Happiness: Causes and consequences. It was great, and packed out the pub.

I also had to interview Jan afterwards. And at short notice introduce him to crowd, which I wasn’t exactly prepared for, and as usual, was shaking afterwards. Most odd and unpleasant. Was more nervous than when I’ve stood up to speak in front of whole conferences, or in “important meetings” with clients or senior staff at work.

It was far better when I did the “thankyou’s” stuff at the end when I’d had more time to prepare and think about it.

As for the interview, well, I was also a little anxious about doing this, as I want to ask sensible intelligent questions and not sound like a douche, but, well judge for yourself, here it is (~8 min long):

Once again, I was talking too fast, occasionally going”eeeerm”, “hmm”, “mmm” and “hahaha”, which is all fine for a chat, but bloody annoying when you’re recording it and want it to sound good. Fortunatly, i get to do some “de-umming” when I edit it, but, well, let me know what you think below. As for me, c’est la vie…

*add to list of things to improve on*

And the whole talk and interview can be found here (for May ~60min):

http://www.oxfordscibar.com/podcast.html

He also has a very similar TEDx talk here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po_YJZW7VJs&feature=player_embedded

He was a really good speaker, and everyone seemed to enjoy it, so check it out yourself.

I think this could also be my first “feature” to write about all the various bits of science of happiness there is, so I’ve started digging a little deeper into it. Would be nice to come up with some practicals tips for people maybe?

I dunno.

What I do know is that the few pints of beer I had left me feeling an bit “wooly” this morning, not hungover, just a bit slow. So maybe I should be avoiding doing that.

It is quite nice though…