Ok, I just got invited to a Danish blog site
where I just wrote my first post. Below is the google translation of it, fixed for some rather bad translations. Like "Since nothing" should be "Science, nothing else".
Below my first post there:
I'm new here on the blog so I'll just say hi and tell you who I am.
My name is Thomas Mailund. I am a computer scientist but the last decade or so I have worked with genetics and especially human and the great apes evolution. That's what I will be blogging about in the future.
My first post will be about something else entirely. It communicating science. It was not always that it was natural for scientists also help to disseminate their research and their knowledge outside academic circles .
One of the first who really did it was the cosmologist Carl Sagan
. Since then many have followed, but I think it really started with him. He showed up a bit on radio and television in the past, but what really got science communication initiated was a television program he did in 78 and 79 called Cosmos, broadcasted in 1980.
I was just five years old when Cosmos was sent. I have no idea when, if at all, Cosmos came to Denmark. The only science program I remember from my childhood is Vitek. I'm not embarrassed to say that I downloaded Cosmos as internet pirate. It was worth it. But you can see it on YouTube
if you're interested.
There is no doubt, however, that the Cosmos change the relationship between the science ivory tower and television viewers. A population who didn't care about science after the moon landing - or perhaps more a press who lost interest - was interested again by the universe's wonders. For 10 years Cosmos held the record for the most popular PBS show and as far as I know is still the PBS program most have seen around the world.
Carl Sagan was never a member of the Academy of Sciences of the United States . Whether he should have been a lengthy discussion, he was best known for explaining science to non- scientists and maybe not so much for its own science, but I will not go into . It's a different story.
What he did was absolutely fantastic. He had showed us the fascination of the cosmos and was science's voice to a whole generation. A lot of what he did was pure "pop". A gold plate on a probe
that no civilisation will ever see is nothing but pop. But it's good pop. It creates dreams, and that we need, after all.
Too often we see headlines with the scary stuff science has now made possible. We forget too easily what science has done. Like we can easily live in harmony with nature, but if we do so we will not live much longer than 35 years, and there wouldn't be seven billion of us.
I will leave for another day the discussing of how much basic science contributes to our lives, because it is not measured in only how long we live and how many of us it can sustain, after all...
Carl Sagan did something unheard of and fantastic. He explained the deep questions so that everyone could understand them and created an interest in science in a world that was about to forget it. In the post World War II, scientists superstars, everyone knew who Albert Einstein was . All the moon landings . Just ten or fifteen years later, wonders forgotten and people feared the science that created the atomic bomb and the Cold War .
Nowadays people fear science again. There are horror stories on TV about GM plants. These plants are the only option for many millions if they want to survive . Sure, you must be a little scared about what we can knit together in our science labs, but still...
I have even heard people oppose genes in their food. It is a profound ignorance. It is time that we have explained what science tells us and what the technological wonders we live with today actually are and what they are not.
We live in the future we could not imagine mere twenty years ago. From anywhere on the planet (almost) you can pull out your mobile phone and call your friend on the other side of the globe . On the internet you can argue with the people around the world about the most trivial things. We live in the future and did not notice when we got here. And we totally forget what created the future we live in.
It was nothing else.
We live in a future science fiction writers in the 70s could not imagined, and we forget about it altogether. They thought that maybe phones would allow us to watch each other on a TV screen, but not that these phones would be carried around in our pocket and that we would be able to call each other from a mountaintop in the Alps. It's almost magical, if you do not know any better.
I find the decoupling of the wonders I see in my everyday life and the science that led to the disturbing. I fear a future where people do not understand science and how much it has done for us.
If you are not an expert in a scientific discipline you do not have an earthly chance to keep up on the edge of the science. I will freely admit that I have very little understanding of modern physics. But I understand how science works. How to evaluate ideas and assess whether they stay or not. I trust the process and believe that scientists check each other and speak up if anything does not hold water. I know that we will in genetics, which I understand and work with.
I do not expect that the people will follow us to the shores of ignorance where the exciting science unfolds. The science is so specialized today that it is an impossibility. I just hope that we can respect the method and have confidence in the process.
We have come a long way since we first invented the scientific method , and we can go much further. However, this happens only if everyone is on the bandwagon and see the utility of science.
Therefore, Cosmos is so important.
That is precisely why I am very pleased to learn that there will be a new Cosmos. Seth MacFarlane known from American Dad and Family Guy put a new version together, and Neil deGrasse Tyson will be the presenter; he takes the role as this generations Carl Sagan.
It will be fantastic and I am excited to see it. Until then, I will watch Cosmos again on YouTube.