Impressions | The Two Cultures – CP Snow

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I was introduced to “The Two Cultures” during the first lecture of my scicomm MSc. When we were talking about scicomm history, “The Two Cultures” stood proudly on our timeline alongside documents which were fundamental to the field. So I wanted to read it for myself.

Originally “The Two Cultures” was a lecture, presented by scientist-turned-fiction-author C. P. Snow in 1959. Snow’s titular cultures were “people of the humanities and literature” and “people of the sciences”. In the lecture, Snow sketched out  divisions between these cultures, with anecdotes from his experiences as a novelist amongst scientists and a scientist amongst literary intellectuals. He blamed this cultural divide on Britain’s education system, which forced people to specialise in one subject too early and prioritised humanities at the expense of science and engineering.

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Where did my Sci-Comm values come from?

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A few months ago, I read and enjoyed Sam Kean’s The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons. Thanks to that book, I figured out something interesting about how I understand sci-comm.

The principles I believe in when it comes to science and sci-comm, and the threads which run through both my psycholgical and scientific interests, weren’t created through my science or psychology education.

1) Cross-disciplinary connections – Science doesn’t work in a vacuum but is informed by art, humanities, politics, and religion.
2) Human history – Rather than being detached thinking agents, scientists are as human, flawed and biased as anyone else.
3) Accidents, serendipity and luck – “Failed” inventions, wrong beliefs and faulty discoveries can be as valuable, informative and powerful as “successful” history.

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A Sci-Comm Renaissance?

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News from the last three weeks has been bad, to say the least. Both Britain and America have seemingly been bent on destruction and bridge-burning. Yet despite being anxious about just what will happen next, I’m also a little bit curious as well.

One of the few good parts about the previous three weeks is how people have often responded to protect and support others. Social networks have shared resources for contacting politicians, lawyers and advocates, and advice on how best to do so. Widespread protests and calls for mobilisation have made some meaningful changes, called attention to the wrongs which would have remained away from the spotlights, and delayed political decisions. People aren’t taking the changes as quietly as either Trump and co. or May and co. had wanted. And I hope this atmosphere of fighting back will continue, and lead to bigger changes.

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Review | Fun Science – Charlie McDonnell

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I’ve recently finished Fun Science by Charlie McDonnell, and after reading it I’m surprisingly impressed both by the book itself and its potential value for science communication.

Firstly, some context. Charlie McDonnell is a filmmaker/musician/ vlogger/presenter… and now author. Last month he released Fun Science (the book), inspired by his 2011 YouTube series of the same name. Fun Science (the show) has also returned,and covers topics included in the book. (A playlist of all of the YouTube episodes is below).


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Science Communication on YouTube, Part 3

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A few weeks ago, I said about getting to explore scicomm on youtube in a uni assignment. Now that I’ve got it finished, marked, and out of the way, here’s the story.

 

The assignment was a content analysis- which means an attempt to interpret media such as writing, speech or video into quantifiable data to analyse it.I decided to try using YouTube videos as my medium, rather than newspapers, and my topic was how YouTube creators represented psychology in videos. Thanks to undergrad, and previous videos I’d seen, I had some ideas of what to expect, so those ideas were the start of my research questions. Also, there’s so little research yet in this kind of area that I could end up finding anything- that unexpectedness made this topic appealing.

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Lecture Notes: History of Science Communication

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Our first Science and Society lecture covered a history of science communication. For many of us, considering the history was surprising; we’ve got so used to scicomm being a cutting-edge interdisciplinary mess that following the trail of people who led us here hasn’t crossed our minds.

Timeline showing events in the history of science communication

While a lot of familiar faces and names appeared on the timeline, such as Darwin, Galileo, and the Royal Institution, a lot of supporting roles were unexpected. Also, the amount of progress made between the 1500s and 1600s was astounding.

Agenda-setting theory and the autism-vaccine controversy.

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This article is focusing on the legacy of the controversy, so for more information about what happened in Andrew Wakefield’s experiment, have a look in text-form here, or comic-form here.

Of all the pesudoscience in all the world, why did this case stay? What about this story has let it live as many people’s truth for almost 20 years, when finding out what happened takes little more than an online search?

There are a few possible answers: celebrity backing, scientists not effectively dispelling inaccuracies, or just people hearing the message so many times that it gains a veneer of truth. All of these have some merit, and all are involved.

But there are two other ideas I want to throw into the pile as well, the first being;

What if psychological biases influence us away from fully rejecting Wakefield’s story, despite the facts?

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Science Communication on Youtube: A Missed Opportunity?

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While looking up different viewpoints for my last post on the definition of science communication, I noticed something unexpected;

I’m interested in science communication, and love to learn more about it.
I also spend a lot of time on YouTube, including on educational channels.
However, I’ve never used YouTube for finding out about scicomm specifically.

I didn’t know if it was just something I had overlooked, or if there was a reason for this. So I decided to investigate where YouTube stands on scicomm- whether its popular with science communicators, and whether science communication videos and channels are popular with Youtube users.

Method

My first tactic was to go with the obvious; to search for “science communication” on YouTube and see what kind of channels and videos come up. As this is a likely approach for someone who has just heard the term “science communication” and wants to explore it, this seemed a sensible place to start.

I looked at the 5 most relevant channels and videos according to YouTube’s search algorithm, then the 5 highest viewed channels and videos. The results can also be found in infographic form here, and each of the images is a clickable link to the video/channel.

Videos

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The Secret History of Soft Drinks

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An odd-sounding title for today’s post, but it turns out that soft drinks have a far more interesting history than I expected. While soft drinks can be seen as a kid’s alternative to alcohol, or as a vilified sugar deliverer, many have a deeper history than that. Surprisingly, many started their lives as medicines.

Firstly, I’ll start with the most popular one- Coca-Cola, a drink so popular and prevalent that in some parts of the world it is the generic term for all soft drinks.Its history is also brought up a lot for fans of interesting facts; anyone with a liking for trivia has probably heard “Did you know Coca-Cola used to have cocaine in it?” quite a few times. However, no-one normally goes as far as explaining why, so I figured I’d try and find that out.
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