November 10, 2010
We really do live in times when scientific progress is a well carved out niche in many existential parameters. But it’s not quite conspicuous. It’s more like World Cup or Common Wealth Games euphoria. And if we can cut the glamour out its an euphoria of thoughts and feelings whose inspiration has a brilliant source in many minds. But when it comes to its place in News and media it has a Page 7 priority.
Only a few times when the news has a wide and frightening sensation that it occupies the most prime corners in newspapers and electronic media mouth pieces. Talk the Large Hadron Collider mishap and its propagandist description in 2008 followed by the Apocalypse paranoia. Or talk the Alien invasion, or the Anthrax epidemic. They all link us to a negative publicity of science.
Of course in negative publicity the scientific community gets a great action put together to further the real cause of science. But that’s not how the basic ideals of a scientific vision are appreciated or even intended to be publicized. Neither is a grand scientific enterprise the only candidate to a popularization story. If science and its causes are to be popularized the essence can really be put into two paragraphs and it will do wonders. It will create a situation for decades to come when a great many child prodigies and intellects will take the unfinished assignments of science to its desired vantage.
The story need not be a 4 page glorious account from a Laureate like the great experimental physicist and modern day scientist statesman Leon Lederman. Leon Ledermans account is a quite sensation even for a great honorable scientist but to see the ground from ground itself is an exercise unmatched by seeing the moon from the best possible telescope. Popularization of science at the very ground level is a sordid affair.
When I was teaching in a college last year there were plenty of students of my college who were so enthused about the concepts of science of the day that they would often greet me with a great deal of honor (a la Indian, Namaskar, bowing with visible respect) and ask me their questions such as about aliens and relativity. I would go ahead for hours tell them about dark matter as well and I did but I think at the ground the relativity and alien euphoria steals most of the matter of discussion.
It’s a sordid affair because this is where most of the young people are, without their eternal quest being answered with an inspiration that comes from the urges of finding meaning not as a favorite pastime but as a sincere molding in the process of thoughts. Leon Ledermans account would be a great deal of shining material and can be kept in the archives of Nobel Foundation. But a shear inspiration to share ones findings with a bunch that will ask you despite of not knowing who you are in its most detailed form is something of a memory.
And this memory will always propel me in a direction to query more and if possible to give an account of inspiration and zeal. I think this is one of the requirements I would like to pass on to the youngsters as something that has the fruits of popularizing science. If science gets popularized it gets you a return which is not matched with anything worldly. (Really?) Science and its popularization are not always and not necessarily a worldly affair. I am happy to learn this in the process and pass this to the enthused in every sphere.
Now that science is not quite a worldly affair and does not necessarily need to be propagandist or grand in its action, to be placed in the prime corners of our daily news affairs why we don’t see such. I can be reminded that we do have weekly and special issues where science is described in great details and in many occasions its quite correct, I am not satisfied. Are scientists some kind of bane for the society?
Why a football game more popular than the usual discussion of a scientific community. I think I have the usual answers. I think we have recognized the traditions of a football game. It is to go all strings cut and enjoy the game. But science is not played like a game, neither it is understood like a game. But we have been doing science for a long time now, as we are told the modern day science is at least 500 years old. Why then it does not take a traditional form in our conscience and existential parameters.
I think science; its basis, its results and failures need to be popularized. There is an inherent danger as there are many agents and elements of dissent in science itself. But then despite of the facts that there are no popes of science we have many honorable and vastly experienced spear headers. They have propelled our conscience and growth like Bill Gates has propelled the growth of world economy.
Take the idea of wikipedia, not only its founder but also the numerous scholars, scientists, experts and enthusiasts they have built a system of information and knowledge sharing that has made doing a basic research and science itself a fun exercise. Wikipedia and Internet archives lead science in a way software leads business. Ecommerce became a buzzword. But haven’t the tools of science become more commonly available to the masses because of such growth spearheaded by a enthused lot.
A vast deal of world knowledge would lie unattended without such tools and facilities at our hand. Scientific innovation has so many dimensions that can come up like an Internet boom and industrial revolution itself that it can change the way we do education, business and media communication. There are a plenty of ideas that can come up like mushroom grows on mush. But since this is a page 7 culture of scientific communication they may even be hidden for a long time to come.