August 09, 2008

"Show, Don't Tell" Science Stories

Caltech's 2008 Commencement address by Robert Krulwich shares a compelling narrative (video here, skip ahead to 9:09) about the importance of conveying science stories to non-science people: your grandmothers, your friends, and friends of friends... people who will be politely asking you "so what did you study at Caltech?"
Because talking about science, telling science stories to regular folks like me and your parents, is not a trivial thing. Scientists need to tell stories to non-scientists because science stories have to compete with other stories about how the universe works and how it came to be….and some of those other stories, bible stories, movie stories, myths, can be very beautiful and very compelling. But to protect science and scientists - and this is not a gentle competition — you’ve got to get in there and tell yours.

He ends with a great story about evolution through a feathery dino/Robin and a Tyrannosaurus rex named Bob (after Bob Harmon). (@ 28:00)

This brings into focus the KEY thesis of my blog here... why have I struggled so long to come up with blog entries that I deemed worthwhile to post? I want to share these sorts of stories. Tales that enthrall and clarify the world around us, the world within us. I'd like to publish a paper someday that offers alternative metaphors and tales that explain difficult-to-understand concepts to patients. But first, I must struggle to understand them myself! An important part of that mission is to preserve my own memories of these difficult times. To recall the time of my own naivete and so-called "ignorance" of these myriad illnesses so that I can connect with people no matter what their background in science and medicine may be.

I have a few ideas brewing in my head and hopefully they will crystallize so I can share them in turn with you.

Hat tip to A Storied Career and the Frontal Cortex

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