Monday, July 26, 2010

Experimental Error

A little bit of humor never hurts. Here's one that comes along with a criticism on perpetuating the perception of what a scientist is and what she/she does.

We are distrusted, feared, but most of all, misunderstood. We work, after all, in one of the only two professions that idiomatically follow the word "mad" -- the other such profession being "hatter."

Is it any wonder, though, that people don't understand what scientists actually do? Think of all the demonstrations you watched as a kid, your first introduction to the field. Among the brightly colored liquids bubbling with dry ice, did a physicist show you a diagram of a particle accelerator? Did a microbiologist talk about colony-forming units? Did a geologist explain how to date a core sample?

Or was your liaison to the scientific universe some doofus in a lab coat who showed you how to make your own silly putty? (Two parts glue, one part liquid starch.)

One can clearly see such misconception when children draw us before meeting us. It is also unfortunate that science demonstrations had to have these fantastic explosions etc. just to keep them "interesting". They gave the wrong impression of what we do.

Still, contrary to what was stated at the end of that article on what scientists actually do, many of us continue to actually do science. This is certainly true if one is working in a smaller group where manpower is limited. I know that I continue to do all the dirty work and the data-taking, even when I have students around.


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