I think that people and their attitudes toward science and technology can be grouped into four broad categories:
- People who are naturally incurious, and who could never really be convinced to learn more about science or technology
- People who are interested in science and technology, and go out of their way to learn more about them
- People who are at least a little bit intimidated by science and technology, and think this stuff is confusing or somehow “beyond” them
- People who have had some exposure to science and technology, but basically think that it’s all pretty dull
I can’t do much for people in the first group — I doubt they spend much time on the internet, anyway.
I don’t think the second group needs much help from me, but of course, they’re always welcome here.
As you’ve probably guessed, the “Sorting out Science” blog and podcast are primarily designed to be a resource for people in the last two categories. Maybe your experiences with science in the classroom left you intimidated or bored. Maybe you read / see coverage of science and technology issues in the news media and wind up confused, and uncertain, and a little angry.
If that’s the case, I’ve got just one thing to say to you.
It’s not your fault.
Our educational system is doing a generally ineffective job of teaching science to students without putting them to sleep. Meanwhile, mass media coverage of science and technology issues tends to be inaccurate and sensationalized. In particular, TV news coverage of science and technology is more likely to spark confrontation than to provide context — drama draws eyeballs, after all. Thanks to all this, measures of scientific literacy show that few people really understand much of what’s involved in today’s highly technological world.
The long term dangers this poses to democracy are sobering — if you don’t understand the issues of the day, you certainly can’t have your say on them.
My name isn’t Einstein, but I’ll do what I can to help. “Sorting out Science” is focused on explaining scientific and technological issues in conversational language. Ideally I want it to be like having a “fireside chat” with a science-savvy friend, but with the convenience of online access (go through material at your convenience, when you get the time). This is why the site’s logo is a life preserver — when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of some issue, you can just holler “SOS” and I’ll be there to toss you a line.
Reading the blog or listening to the companion podcast won’t require any specialized background on your part. If you do have deep background in some subject or another, SOS should have enough variety that you won’t often be bored to tears. I plan on covering a variety of subjects in a mixed fashion, so it should keep things interesting for everybody.
As far as the podcast is concerned, I’m aiming for episodes around 20 to 25 minutes in length, with a new episode released every other week. So listening to an episode should fit into most folks’ commute, and the spacing between them should allow me the time to put together a high-quality show.
As I’ll freely admit, this is all a bit of an experiment, and I’m not sure how much of a response it will receive. I’ll need feedback to keep me on a tack that helps as many people as possible. Please feel free to send me email any time — suggestions, complaints, questions, topic requests will all be accepted gladly. Lacking feedback, I’ll pretty much cover issues that I find interesting — with your input, we can make this a helpful and interesting resource for everybody.
So jump on in, the water’s fine!
P.S. The theme music for the SOS podcast is “Mojave Metro,” by cjacks
P.P.S No, I’m not that Sam Wise. My nom de plume seems to be pretty common on the internet, so if you’ve seen a YouTube video or blog post by “Sam Wise,” it’s almost certainly not mine unless I link to it from this site.