The Failure of Science

Bill Bryson is the author of one of my favorite books, A Walk in the Woods. It's a hilarious look at his quest to hike the Appalachian Trail, despite his extremely limited knowledge of the outdoors and his less-than-svelte physique.

In his new book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bryson attempts to relate the scientific history of the world in a form that's accessible to anyone. In a recent interview, he was asked what science could do to better popularize it's work. He had this to say_

"If there is a failure in science it is the way scientists neglect to tell people how amazing their work is. I was constantly struck as I was learning by the thought that this is really interesting, why has nobody ever told me about it? If I were a congressman I would give a lot more willingly to research in certain fields if I knew how amazing it was, how interesting it was, and how worthwhile it is to know this stuff. Sometimes scientists are not very good at conveying that. I think they forget about this side of it, or lose the sense of wonder about what they are doing. I suppose if you do something every day for 35 years it starts to seem not quite so astounding. But what a shame to lose that because, almost without exception, the stuff they are doing is astounding."

This shows remarkable insight into the divide between researchers and the general public. The majority of scientific knowledge is never made accessible to the average Joe Schmoe. There is a real need for popular writers and coumnists to tackle this problem. Stephen Jay Gould was one notable scientist to have done just this, and his passing has left a void in the scientific community. We need writers and scientists that can convey modern research in simple terms, and generate enthusiasm for the current and potential benefits that science brings to our everyday lives.

Sometimes I think that I could be good at doing this. I don't really know where to start, though...


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