Movie Friday: Fear of Numbers

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Here’s why:

When Carl Sagan died, there was a hole left for a science educator that could engage with average people and get them excited by new scientific concepts. I feel like that role has gone to Dr. Tyson, though I’m sure he would forswear the comparison. I had a conversation with a couple of friends and raised the point that like basic math skills and basic language skills (although still not in many cases), it should be a prerequisite of having a career as a scientist that you can communicate your research with ordinary people (i.e., non-scientists). If the scientific community can’t manage to bring the fire of the gods to the people (I am making a Prometheus allusion), then what are they (we) doing this for?

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  1. Joseph Caine says

    Well, it should be the rule, not the exception, but I think that having it be a basic prerequisite would be a bit stifling… I think that there’s a reason Science Journalism is a specific subset of Journalism, though.
    The public should also be better educated on scientific concepts in general. Of course, that’s much easier said than done…

  2. says

    Science journalists in major media outlets are seldom accurate when it comes to describing science. There’s also the fact to consider that media isn’t the only way people interact with science, and scientists need to be part of that conversation. Communication is a two-way street as well, and many scientists need to be able to understand what things are relevant to society in general.

    I am not a mathematician, but without math competency I wouldn’t be able to be a scientist. I could be an absolute wizard in the lab, or when it comes to research design, but if I can’t do math I can’t be a scientist. I don’t find that ‘stifling’, I think it’s relevant to my role as a scientist. In the same way, I think some basic competency in speaking, presenting, writing for laypeople – I think these are important and oft-neglected skills that should be part of training for a career in science.

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