Right now, I am in the process of editing and re-typing the extensive interview we did last Wednesday and the previous week. We mentioned a few fascinating points about structure and processes in the universe but also the way how the scientific knowledge about the matter in the universe is structured and approached from historical and philosophical perspectives, Democritus in particular. I find fascinating that one of the research centers in Athens that Thanassis worked with was named after this influential philosopher who invented the idea of the atom. We also spoke about different ideas of harvesting energy of the stars and problematized this idea by comparing it to fossil fuel extraction. According to Thanassis, hydrogen fusion might be the best bet for our future. Another highlight from the interview was comparing the Einstein's model of physics with the quantum theory and again historical development and coexistence of these parallel ideas.
This interview will create a great base for the scenario and a storyboard for our science fiction movie. We are going to use Maya 3D animation program to create astronomical animations and environments.
Connecting to my previous blog post, I didn't travel to Michigan after all, because of a technical issue in the lab – don't worry, I will probably do that trip next month. During the week we had another talk with Matej that served as a “follow-up interview”, where I talked in more detail about some points that he found interesting from our previous conversation. We stuck mainly to the origin of the elements and the philosophical implications of my research. The conversation turned out to be very interesting and I really enjoyed it.
Apart from that, last week I read a very interesting article on science storytelling
A part of this article that really stuck in my head is the distinction between plot and story. According to Edward Morgan Forster it is the plot that keeps the audience’s interest alive and not the story. A great example, mentioned in the book, is the following:
“The king died and then the queen died” is a story, but “the king died and then the queen died of grief” is a plot. The first statement makes the reader ask “what’s next?” and the second “why?”. In science storytelling, it is very common to stay just in facts and follow a very strict narrative, according to the scientific way introduced mainly by Descartes and Isaac Newton back in the 17th century. Nevertheless, this way tends to be very stiff and “in the name of science” any emotional aspect on research is considered “unnatural”. It is actually quite rare to encounter scientific papers, where an anecdote or a small story connects the dots and makes the narrative more coherent.
Scientific papers these days are very specialized and there is no room for an “audience-friendly” version. Science-based articles in the mass media, also tend to distort the truth.
Note: Check a very interesting - and funny - video from John Oliver about scientific studies and how they are presented in the media.
This topic is connected with one of the classes I'm teaching this term at McMaster, where every week we discuss one “big question”. Our last week's topic was science and the media. Students believe that science is not disseminated correctly nowadays, but unfortunately they aren't able to come up with sustainable solutions to that.
I’m thinking of this collaboration as a great opportunity for me to enhance my science communication repertoire with animations and visualizations. So far I’ve been trying to find new ways to make my research interesting and approachable to everybody. One of the greatest fulfillments as a researcher, in my opinion, is to watch kids inspired by what you are studying and asking questions. After all, we are all born scientists, even though we lose track at a young age – suspiciously close to when we have our first encounter with science in school. Our duty is to bring this enthusiasm for science back and inspire the next generation.