Here in Denver, the Mile High City, there’s a big blue bear that tries to peer into the convention centre. What’s he been missing so far at this week’s American Chemical Society national meeting in Denver?

Curious Bear

A presidential symposium on empowering tomorrow’s science superheroes was actually a great mix of the funny to the thought provoking. The bits that everyone will probably remember was Marc Abrahams of the IgNobel Awards talking about making people laugh and then think. I have to admit I cried with laughter at the story of the gas mask bra, US Patent 7255627. But it’s true that a lot of the research the IgNobel highlights is actually useful, even if it sounds silly at first, and in the UK the awards always get a lot of coverage. Watch out for the 2011 awards later this month which will focus on chemistry.

But it is important that science isn’t seen as just silly, hard or a waste. The two most important things I took away from the session were, in my opinion, the importance of not dumbing down or insulting the intelligence of your audience, be they adults, or school children, and the importance of inspiring and enthusing children with context and real scientists and science. This morning I heard that the most important influence on the career aspirations of children (at least in Colorado) is fathers. So if we want to get pupils into science and we want to make sure science is supported and appreciated perhaps we need to make a deal to inspire the whole population without dumbing down or sensationalising. Maybe we all need to be science superheroes.

(The symposium was videoed but it isn’t available yet, there is a video of the press conference that followed the symposium but it’s really only a teaser)

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