« Now it can be told. | Main | I love the smell of a napalmed New York Times in the morning. »

August 10, 2012

You Effing Snob!

Do you feel like you have to dumb down your work for public discourse? Head of the CERN laboraties, Rolf-Dieter Heuer :
That would be the wrong approach. But we have to differentiate between scientific work and the presentation of our work and results to the public. We owe it to the public that we communicate well: our work is interesting, important for the progress of science, and often publicly funded as well. The thing to keep in mind is the right order: first, we inform our colleagues in the scientific community, and then we find a language that is suitable for the general public and the media." -- The European Magazine - The Opinion Magazine

Posted by gerardvanderleun at August 10, 2012 10:20 AM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep--
Saul Bellow

Posted by: Anonymous at August 10, 2012 12:25 PM


Posted by: Blastineau at August 10, 2012 1:53 PM

Work plan: 1) Gain public support, 2) Publish a report that will assure grant continuation, 3) Do some science in remaining time, if any.

Posted by: BillH at August 10, 2012 2:24 PM

Aw, give 'em a break. If the physicists don't dumb it down, they'll never be able to explain it to the climate scientists.

Posted by: Grizzly at August 10, 2012 4:17 PM

I confess they will have to dumb it down to explain it to me; those guys talk in mathematics.

Posted by: Lorne at August 10, 2012 9:20 PM

I don't think that is snobbery at all. Advanced physics is couched in terms of mathematics difficult even for maths specialists, and trying to give the general public (even the well-educated general public) the full dose would just turn them off.

The same applies, BTW, to experts in any field. My field is nutrition and in particular the biochemistry of nutrients, as applied to the sale of supplements. I keep (or used to, when I was still in business) 90% of the material away from the general public. Very rarely, I got challenged by someone who really knew his stuff; but spouting biochemical gobbledegook with its multisyllabic terms and massively complex interactions wouldn't help anyone.

I imagine the same would be true for an expert in engine tuning, or agronomy, or...

Having said all that, saying to the general public something like "if you want the real technicalities here's where you can look at them" wouldn't hurt.

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at August 11, 2012 8:05 AM

The problem is not that they have to explain modern physics to the general population, a group whose grasp of quantum mechanics generally lacks opposable thumbs, but that they need to explain it to journalists. Journalists! And various 'Communications' majors. For the love of God, Montressor!

Posted by: SteveS at August 11, 2012 2:40 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)