Science as a spectator sport?

Engerlaaand, Engerlaaand, Engerland Engerland Engerlaaand! With that that of the way, a reminder that the the serious competition begins on June 14th, IAS2010 that is (See June 1st Post). Many people are genuinely perplexed as to why I would want to take part. As mentioned previously, “Great idea... engaging with young people... communication of science.... etc, etc.”, all genuine motivations, but I have to say, the spirit of competition was not an insignificant stimulus.

It’s a little known fact that an old school friend, Best Man at my wedding, D:Ream keyboard player and all round Prof Science for the BBC is Professor Brian Cox, or Cox Brian as he was ‘affectionately’ known for a while (long story, would need lots of beer and curry to recount fully). Even if you had no interest in Science, you’d be hard pressed to miss him on the Beeb over the last few months. TV appearances include the excellent ‘Wonders Of The Solar System’ and ‘Friday Night With Jonathan Ross’, not to mention ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ and regular appearances on ‘The Today Program’ on Radio 4. He’s a great enthusiast and populariser of Physics and Physicsy based science, as well as having the ear of science policy makers. With the excitement around the LHC and Brian’s efforts Physics is everywhere, high profile and ‘Exciting!’
On the other hand, I’ve never been in a band and work in a field where the biggest recent stories have been Bioweapons (Anthrax), health scares (MRSA), Pig flu, artificial life -which I still contend isn’t really- and GM crops, with the main thrust of popular reporting amounting to ‘Scientists have discovered the gene for……… ‘ or ‘Ooo! if scientists can do this then we’re all going to be dissolved into grey blobs of goo!’ As an ex-salesman, not exactly being oversold I’d say! And journalistically lazy in general, but best leaving that little chestnut to the likes of Ben Goldacre.

I have no intention of competing with Brian for airtime or celebrity and besides, I’ve a face for Radio, voice for the written word and a talent for writing that can be bettered by my two-year-old daughter. IAS2010 is my opportunity, small as it may be, to get the message out that Science is way more than Physics and the LHC. My field of endeavour, I’m sure, can have its rock stars and big events and I intend to do my bit in giving it a shove onto the front of the stage. It can’t just be me who gets excited at the thought of about 10% of the DNA in our bodies being from the bacteria living in and on us, without whom we simply wouldn’t thrive, or that life in the deep void of space seems a greater possibility when you know life exists on earth, quite happily, without oxygen or in ice and highly acidic volcanic springs. We can even use the little bacterial blighters to produce IVF drugs, Hydrogen, Biofuels, food and the antibiotics with which we kill them, amongst many other things. If I can get across to just one of the students taking part that my field is challenging, exciting and worthy of their future, then job done. You never know, THEY might turn out to be the next Rock Star scientist.

Best of luck to everyone taking part in IAS2010.


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