Getting IAS therapy?

Bloody Hell!
Someone should have warned me, pushed me, forced me out of my ivory towered lair sooner!
Boy, these IAS2010 kids are making me think! It’s driving me nuts! Every time I start to feel comfortable with the questions Bam! another one lands (or another 50?!), right between the eyes, ‘Oh good grief, never thought of this...damn!...or that either...what time is it? where’s Google...my prrrreciousss?!!’

Pretty much every IAS2010 scientist has mentioned something along the lines of the next bit, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate for those, worryingly, not yet following the likes of Tom Hartley, Stephen Curry, Andrew Maynard etc., or #IAS2010 and the rest of us on Twitter.

Questions range from the ubiquitous, yet "v. important, PS3 or Xbox?" to the sublime, "What is the biological basis of consciousness?" and ALL points in between. I’ve researched...sorry,...Googled and blathered about more general science over the last week, and scarily unearthed more information about my own subject, than in the last...Well?...too many years to mention. Before IAS2010 I thought I'd retained the ability to wonder at the universe with the mind of a child, obviously my wife took no delight in this, but it’s a scientific prerequisite...isn’t it? With their questions and intense interest, these kids are demonstrating that arrogance, and ignorance, really do come with age. My thoughts were jaded, my wife, a lovely, patient IAS2010/World Cup widow, is correct, the outlook of a 13 year old boy really should be left in the body of one. My mind was in a rut or, as a sales rep I used to be might have said 'a grave with the ends kicked out'....shiver at thought of former self.

If any scientist is feeling jaded, run down, disillusioned with their lot, I thoroughly recommend IAS therapy. The energy, the intensity, the free uninhibited approach to asking science questions displayed by a class of energised and interested teenagers, is far better for the scientific psyche than any shrink could manage, it got me pumped again. Work related ideas have been nothing less than magnificent. Last week, during week one of the event, not sure on which night as they’re beginning to blur, a 4.00am Eureka! moment solved a problem that’s been bugging me for the best part of a year. No, I wasn’t still answering questions at the time, though could have been on that particular night. It came from a seed of an idea planted in my head by a simple question from a 13/14 year old, absolutely bloody marvellous! Next day I was skipping into work like a refugee Munchkin from the Wizard of Oz, bleary eyed but elated.

And get this, ideas are firing off, bizarrely for me, on science communication. Not just at a University level, but ideas for sciency based TV shows, articles, live shows even, I think I’ve tapped into my inner luvvie. My favourite, so far, is a chat show revolving around taking sciency‘ish celebs for a curry and beers and letting the conversation flow. Self-indulgent baloney of course, but there’s better, at least I hope there’s better.

Best of all, I've come across a bunch of scientists on Twitter, and all those taking part in IAS2010, who really demonstrate we're interesting, amusing and down right normal people, if a little beardy on occasion. Thank you IAS2010.



  1. I also appreciate the interactions with the other participants, though I would like to see more of that. I think it would be interesting to try something like Chatroulette with scientists. Any takers? For a start, I have set up a mailing list for "IAS therapy" and related issues.

  2. As the "support team" for an IAS2010 participant I can confirm that my colleague has undergone a transformation since she was launched into the live chat maelstrom last week.

    She probably hasn't had time to notice the difference - but her replies to the kids are much more succinct and clearly phrased than they were. This can only be a good thing for the future of science communication!

  3. You may wish to check out Skeptics in the Pub/Curry House then! Follow @SITP and @lordmauve for info!

    I agree.
    It's crazy what they come up with, but also inspired a lot of the time! Loving it. Had two very different chats today; one mad and mostly full of nonsense, the other very thought-provoking and sensible. Brilliant.

  4. Interesting idea Daniel, was wondering if Gallomanor/WT had any interest in something like this.
    Already going to propose to Department and University that it would be a good exercise, at the very least, to do IAS style live chat with schools at least once a term, or even once a month. Would depend on willing victims from a number of different disciplines to make it worth while. It's going to be increasingly important we justify the HE and science budget, an unfortunate reality we should address before anyone else does it for us.

  5. @MorningAJ Love your comment - that is indeed the challenge with folks who do extremely detailed work and have a very wide knowledge base. Successful communication isn't necessarily more detailed - it's often more refined and therefore more succinct. Luckily, practise makes perfect!

    @Mark You were a wonderfully good sport, and while I was sorry to see you leave the science island so early, I think everyone who participated in this exercise was, in fact, a winner.