The National Science Board — which governs the National Science Foundation — released its 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators, highlighting major developments in International and US science and engineering. In Chapter 7, Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding, the NSB outlines recent trend over time with the population’s comprehension of and engagement with S&T issues ranging from climate change to evolution. Here are some highlights:
- Levels of factual knowledge in the United States are comparable to those in Europe and are generally higher than levels in countries in other parts of the world.
- Four out of five Americans say they are interested in “new scientific discoveries.”
- About 4 in 10 Americans cited the Internet as their primary source of S&T information in 2012 compared with about one-third in 2010.
- The percentage of Americans saying they relied on television as their primary source of S&T information dropped between 2010 and 2012.
On confidence in the sciences and scientists and engineers themselves:
NASA’s Curiosity Rover sees Earth from the Red Planet for the first time. (Apparently while listening to an 80’s crime drama soundtrack)
I’d drop everything and hit the campaign trail.
“Never read the comments!”
Yes, in unadulterated quantities, reading the comments at the bottom of blog posts, New York Times articles, and “’like’ if you think Obama should go back to Kenya!” Facebook memes is indeed bad for your health. But if read with some distance, purpose, and intention, they can also be really valuable data.
Now if you’d prefer to exist in a self-centric silo, looking for messages that simply reaffirm your views, then nothing I say here will be relevant to you. (That’s harsh, I know.) But if you have even some small sense of purpose for better understanding an issue in your community in hopes of generating progress on it, then hear me out. It may be time to renegotiate your relationship to the comments section, your Twitter Timelines, and the oh so out-of-control multi-paragraph Facebook arguments. Here’s why:
Alright, back to the science stuff! This story can also be found on the Huffington Post and Spaceflight Insider. -L
Another year of the Internet has come to a close, which can only mean one thing: time for more lists! The science magazines will undoubtedly create exciting top 10’s of the most awesome things to happen in space in 2013. But some of the stories that most need telling are not the big-ticket tales of human spaceflight and new exoplanet discoveries. For most people, it’s the less flashy things that can mean the most in the lives of people right down here on Earth. And these benefits are not limited to spinoffs like microelectronics and high-tech medical technologies that people from rich countries enjoy; from human rights to food security, space assets provide incredibly meaningful humanitarian contributions to the planet. Here are five of the many ways in which space touched us down here on Earth in 2013:
So in addition to being obsessed with writing about space, science, and the humanness of things, I am also a huge fan of horror films. If you are too, then read on to this utterly random post!
Maybe you are like me and you have an unfortunate tendency to spend ungodly amounts of your free time relentlessly searching Netflix until you find something…anything to watch that you haven’t already seen (but you are still tasteful enough to never succumb to watching Paranormal Activity 29). If so, you may notice that it is nearly impossible to tell the myriad of C- movies apart given how sadly similar all the movie posters are. The Ring 2 or Seance? The Eye or Would You Rather? After failing to find something to blow a couple hours on during my latest bout of procrastination, I figured I’d compile some of these posters together into their corresponding hackneyed themes:
1. The Shut your mouth!
We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are, when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed, and beneath every sadness is a fear that there will not be enough time.
When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances for joy. It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting that we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real.
In this way, our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world, but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold, and the car handle feels wet, and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being soft and unrepeatable.
Top 5 science discoveries of #NASA ‘s #Mars #Curiosity rover so far.
I wish every mission had this kind of concise infographic to share with the world so that people could get an easy to understand, bite-sized, and relevant snapshot of the work. Great job MSL team, and keep on truckin’ Curiosity!
NASA spending vs. US military spending. The blue bar is most telling.
#NASA got jokes!
(that is, assuming this is real)
Thanks for sharing Russ :)
The amazing Neil deGrasse Tyson on the feeling of social responsibility as an educated black man in astrophysics. Profound profound stuff.
Why are there so few black scientists? According to the National Science Foundation, only 5% of scientists and engineers are black. This video features a brilliant panel of scientists, journalists, and educators as they weigh in rather insightfully on the topic. It’s a little long, but very well worth watching for scientists and non-scientists alike.
Q. Can we inspire more kids to pursue space-related science and research? If so, how?
A. Kids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. The beat the curiosity out of the kids. They out-number kids. They vote. They wield resources. That’s why my public focus is primarily adults.
-from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s 2011 Reddit Ask Me Anything
I’m completely with him on this one. Why? Because kids don’t vote.
Companies and scientific government agencies (e.g. The Smithsonian, NASA) focus so much of their STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—outreach attention on youth, but spend so little energy and funds on programs for adults. Of course, I’m not arguing that we should stop educating the kids—that would be ridiculous. But we can no longer rest on the excuse that all our problems will be solved with the next generation, because as we just saw with the devastating Typhoon in the Philippines, the world’s greatest problems such as climate change demand our attention and action right now.
Brain, behavior, and opinion plasticity is real. However, getting adults to think critically about science is not unachievable. Efforts in participatory democracy such as consensus conferencesand citizensʼ juries in the US and Europe have shown that when given access to scientific and technical information, ordinary people have been able to formulate thoughtful positions and recommendations on science and technology issues such as nanotechnology and GMOs.
Yes, it is difficult. Yes, it requires creativity. Yes, it will make you want to pull your armpit hairs out. But it is essential.
The same kids that grow up to vote against climate change measures and support anti-science politicians were not educated in caves devoid of common sense and text books; these kids had chemistry sets, had doctors and scientists visit their classrooms, and were taught all about Darwin and his finches. They looked through telescopes with their grandfathers and traumatically learned about where babies come from by watching The Miracle of Life. They grew up to work as accountants, pilots, and consultants. In short: these are not stupid people.
But somewhere between the span of twinkly-eyed fourth grader dreaming to be an astronaut to the budget conscious pragmatist who doesn’t understand what a solar eclipse is, something strange happens. Their curiosity wanes. Their confidence in their ability to process scientific data drops. And they grow less and less open to challenging their world-views. Given that these are the people who are casting the ballots for the measures and politicians that determine the future of science and technology funding, shouldn’t we be putting a bit more effort into the grownups?
Yes, it’s counter to my point, but you must admit, it is an awesome T-Shirt. Thanks to Samuel H. for sending it over.
Lessons in Leadership
NPR + Dr. Ron Heifetz
NPR interviews my favorite professor, Harvard’s Dr. Ron Heifetz, on his Adaptive Leadership framework. In what I believe to be a crux of the methodology, he says:
"The dominant view of leadership is that the leader has the vision and the rest is a sales problem. I think that notion of leadership is bankrupt."
I will be writing much more about this in the coming days—specifically in how it applies to space exploration—so stay tuned.