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Stories that turn the world to glass

By Timothy Cocks Education for all 10 Mar 2016

The wonderful Alan Alda is currently in Australia spreading the word about the importance of communicating science. There’s a great interview on The Conversation with a transcript and audio recording of the full interview, definitely worth a listen:

Alan Alda on the art of science communication: ‘I want to tell you a story’

“Whenever I would be at a university where they taught science, I would try to talk the president of the university into the idea of teaching communication while they taught science, because if you can graduate experienced scientists, capable scientists who are also capable communicators, then the public has a chance to learn something from them.”

“What we try to teach is, first of all, not dumbing down the science. Science is exciting and it doesn’t need to be dumbed down, I’m sure you agree with that.”

“What we really look for is clarity and vividness.”

“The story is the important thing. We need to hear stories.”

We combine art and science as much as we can, including story telling.”

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“In my opinion, communication is not something you add onto science like icing on a cake. It’s the cake itself, it’s of the essence of science.”

In his essay The Poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested that the poet turns the world to glass, and shows us all things in their right series and procession“. But Emerson’s ‘poets’ were not just those that could write in iambic pentameter – they were great minds and intellects that helped reveal the nature of the world through both art and science.  This idea seems to fit nicely with notions of science making the world more ‘transparent’ – more understandable to everyone, but as the nature of science and its discoveries becomes increasingly complex, the need for ‘poets’ – great science storytellers who can spread accurate knowledge to the public with great enthusiasm and passion – has become greater than ever.

Alan Alda has partnered with the Centre for Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University, with the aim of promoting science communication to “help with funding important research, educating the next generation, guiding public policy and increasing the public’s understanding of science” – exciting and worthy stuff.

-Tim Cocks



Art, science, education and story telling have long collided in a spectacular and entertaining fashion at NOI courses – get yourself a bit of the action on our big Aussie tour:

Townsville: EP & GMI April 29-May 1 

Canberra: MONIS at the Australian Institute of Sport May 3-4 

Canberra: EP& GMI at the Australian Institute of Sport May 6-8

Adelaide: Pain, Plasticity and Rehabilitation May 14-15 

Noosa: EP & GMI June 17-19

Perth: EP & GMI October 15-17


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