I read this piece by Paul M. Sutter, “Science Has a Communication Problem – and a Connection Problem.” His conclusion is scientists can earn public trust if they are visible and sharing the scientific process. I think that’s right. He talks about the difficulties in using traditional and social media to convey science. I relate, and I tried to articulate my thoughts on the subject below.
The boundary of scientific understanding expands all the time. It takes time and effort to take discoveries at the frontier and deliver them to the public. Whose responsibility is it to provide accounts of the new territory of human knowledge? More scientists should take on that role, but there is neither incentive nor training to do so. Most scientists hone a specific technical skillset and communication style that works within the scientific community. Making time to build another, parallel skillset and communication style is hard.
My wife and I have the weirdest conversations, and I absolutely love that. I am a lucky man. I found someone who can turn her magical perspective into a set of tiny numbers in a computer that we perceive as colors that are then assembled into a picture that makes me laugh. This person is called an “artist.” The result is this week’s comic. There’s a video version of this post available, too.
Life is full of unpleasant things. Everything from having-to-put-in-eye-drops to the-inevitable-fact-of-our-demise. But it helps me to find a little humor where we can. And… while the script is loosely based on true events, in the interest of the joke, the comic did take liberties with the outfits.
I was still thinking about the pernicious effects of smartphones on attention when I wrote the comic. I have been trying to listen to more audio books instead of doomscrolling. I listened to “Deep Work” by Cal Newport and “Effortless” by Greg Mckeown over the last few weeks. There is an interesting tension between them. I agree with both. It takes deep work to make progress. It takes real, effortless recreation to recover from that deep work. Maybe I’ll write something about that at some point.
I posted a video this week about the Drexler-Smalley debate. The big question was “Can we make a nano-3D printer that can fabricate literally anything?” My PhD is in chemistry, and I have experience with using photolithography for microfabrication as well as building simple bio-inspired nano-machines. So I have some of the relevant background and context to explain this. I put the edited text-version at the end of this post.
I’ve collected a bunch of cool articles and links, too.
Neal Stephenson published the Diamond Age in 1996. I read it while I was in high school (about 1997). I was hooked on the ideas of nanotechnology and post-scarcity presented in the novel. I earned my PhD in bioanalytical chemistry in 2008. I went into my field in some ways because of this science fiction novel. I wanted to learn how to analyze and then build the kinds of nano-machines that life is made of.
I decided to re-read it recently. I put up a video review, too. Continue reading
I made a vlog today about how I address the Sad Gap. If you’re not a part of the nerdfighteria youtube sphere, I will explain. The Vlogbrothers have both talked about it recently (see Hank’s video or John’s video). The sad gap is the place between finding out about a problem and being in a position to do something – anything – about it. It’s possible to fall right into the sad gap and end up not actually doing anything at all.