sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

August 27, 2006

why people don’t like science
posted by soe 11:59 pm

I think that scientists don’t fully understand why the public dislikes and is confused by science. My theory is that the field has, as have many others, taken concepts that are ultimately understandable and swathed them in language that is so technical and specialized that it is virtually incomprehensible.

I recently read an article about research into the brain’s role on obesity. I have been looking into the subject of obesity for a year now and I still found it hard to follow. This is because in an article that was six paragraphs long it included a ridiculous number of multi-syllabic words (and I like multi-syllabic words!).

Included in the article were gems like

“The importance of these brain peptides and their expression patterns in energy homeostasis is underscored by central injection studies with the peptides themselves, as well as with antisense oligonucleotides that produce a local blockade of peptide gene expression”


“These investigations, involving both in vivo and in vitro techniques, enable us to unravel a cascade of factors controlling neuropeptide production, including circulating steroids, glucoregulatory peptides and nutrients, as well as intracellular proteins and lipids.”

The article is neither specifically aimed at the layperson nor at the science community, so it could be that the author did not intend it for the non-science community to read it. But if it was intended for wider circulation, the author (and other scientists who write similar articles) does the field a disservice.

If scientists want to present a friendlier front to the public, they will start teaching their up-and-comers how to present their materials in a way that doesn’t automatically isolate the general audience. As I used to tell science students, explain it as if you were talking to your grandmother. Once you can do that, the public will get behind your work and behind science in general, and it will stop seeming like it’s a club that doesn’t want any new members.

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have you missed me?
posted by soe 1:55 am

Well, I’ve missed you too.

I’m feeling much better. It’s amazing what drugs can do for you. I am still tired, which causes me to take long naps (and miss key blogging time), but I’ll take that over feverish and unable to swallow.

Today I got up and did a little housework before my two hour nap. Then I went for a walk, did a little grocery shopping, and came home so we could meet friends for a concert.

The Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows both put on audience-friendly shows, even though I didn’t know as many of their songs as I often do when attending a show. I did know more than I expected to, though. Our friend Phillip bought them in absentia for our friend Susan and invited us to accompany her to the show. It was a terribly sweet thing to do and, as we like music, we hopped in the car with Susan and Sarah, pointed it toward Virginia and took off. The crowd definitely skewed young, chatty, and prone to drunkenness, but there was less pot smoking in our section than I’d expected. Maybe they bust people there. The attendees certainly don’t clean up after themselves terribly well, though. Clearly all those young people were under the impression that their maids had also come to the show, as empty cans and bottles littered the field. (Thanks for teaching me to tote out my mess, Mum and Dad.)

I wasn’t that impressed with the Goo Goo Dolls, although they put on a fine show. I liked the Counting Crows better, even if they didn’t play “Accidentally in Love,” their Shrek II theme song. Oddly, they seemed sort of U2esque with the lead guitarist dressed a lot like The Edge and the lead singer doing some progressive propaganda à la Bono. But since I like U2 and I liked the Counting Crows’ songs, it was a comparison that worked well for them.

On tap tomorrow: the farmers’ market (must buy milk!), the yarn store (I have a discount that expires at the end of the month I’d like to see about using), and some work.

I’d also like to do a little knitting. I taught myself the Magic Loop method of knitting the other night and have finished the cuff of the sock that was driving me nuts. (For the non-knitters, Magic Loop allows you to knit a small object like a sock using just a long, single circular needle instead of on 4-5 double-pointed needles or a pair of circulars.) Since I needed to downsize this project from US3 needles — which I had two of — to US2s — which I only had one of — the most prudent thing seemed to be to learn a new technique. I’m pleased to say that although it seemed intimidating before I tried it, after looking over a detailed, photo-heavy website and watching an online video tutorial, it was really much easier than I’d expected. I love when that happens.

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