Hard News by Russell Brown

Read Post

Hard News: Higgs Live!

319 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 6 7 8 9 10 13 Newer→ Last

  • Sacha, in reply to Ross Mason,

    thus they concentrate on the how rather than the what

    You may want this to be the case, but it really isn't that way for any of us in this thread who have been patiently explaining how basic design enhances a focus on the content. It's not an either/or, and the skills don't have to reside in the same people.

    Please accept with a little grace that some of us actually know what we are talking about, just like I'm not planning to tell any physicists they're wrong about science.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16277 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Who says they haven’t?

    That's the thing with snails. They're inscrutable. Also dolphins and mice. However, the cat and I think alike, although that might be a due to a parasite, according to latest research.

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite, in reply to Lilith __,

    I’m staunchly Green, but such stupidity makes me writhe with embarrassment.

    Likewise. Just when they’d got rid of Sue Kedgely… It’s the sort of simple-minded sanctimony that’s the norm for Grauniad columnists and I despise sanctimony because it’s simply making a show of hand-wringing as a substitute for real thought.

    The thing that irritates me most about this blather:

    Metiria Turei – expressed discomfort with the cost of the LHC project, and felt that the money would have been better spent alleviating poverty than seeking intangible knowledge.

    … is that under existing real-world conditions, if the money were actually taken off science, the people who would do so would most definitely not give it to the starving... more likely, it would - as it is in fact - go to bailing out banks.

    Carl Sagan wrote a rather clever article – I think it was in The Cosmic Connection – pointing out that NASA’s budget for planetary exploration could easily be paid for and indeed increased with the money given to cost overruns on just a few specific programmes by the US Department of Defense that he named.

    I feel like locking up Turei in a cell and demanding that she answer this multiple-choice question:

    The difference between a million and a billion (and then a trillion) is:

    (A) Two times

    (B) A thousand times

    (C) What?

    (D) A speech impediment

    My vote in 2014 is going to involve not hand-wringing, but teeth-grinding.

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 955 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Meanwhile, actual tweets. Take that, atheists!

    Heh. Here is where the phrase came from. Bloody Publishers. Spoil all the fun.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1479 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Kracklite,

    My vote in 2014 is going to involve not hand-wringing, but teeth-grinding.

    Winston, then? :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16277 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    I'm just suggesting it's not only a healthy contribution to the culture for more scientists to develop that ability, but entirely in their enlightened self-interest. Science isn't just about the seminar room and the research lab.

    Surprisingly you don't see too many accountants giving (good) public presentations either. Scientists are the same. Some do, some don't. It is a skill. If you sat down at the tea table with a nerd - physics or otherwise - you would have the time to ask questions and I know nerds have fun explaining their esoteric existence to non nerds - or those here who are nerdy designers. Crowds are scary places.

    We had a principal at the school down here who was really keen on the kids having presentation skills. His mantra was "Presentation is everything". I recall the meeting where the selection committee presented their report. "He presented well". He was a waste of time.

    But that is the other extreme. Scientists should take the time to improve their presentation skills. Toastmasters was a great place to do this by the way. But the audience needs to well endowed to see through the floss.

    We do need more Lawrence Krauss's, Richard Dawkins, Attenboroughs, Callaghans and Hitchens in this world. They do us all a service.

    These sorts of discoveries come once a century. The learnings are a wee bit few and far between.

    Einsteins theory of generality relativity was met the same:

    Asked in 1919 whether it was true that only three people in the world understood the theory of general relativity, Sir Stanley Eddington allegedly replied: 'Who's the third?'

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1479 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Ross Mason,

    Surprisingly you don’t see too many accountants giving (good) public presentations either.

    No -- which might be an asset when you're being deposed in a fraud trial, but doesn't do a great deal of good when "non-accounting people" would like to make some sense of why they're unemployed, their retirement savings are worthless and they live in a country whose economy would need a fireman's ladder to reach the shitter.

    Look, there's always a place for jargon in the world. I don't understand jack shit about structural engineering but I'd really like any architect or builder I've retained to be able to explain in plain English why knocking out that load-bearing beam would be dumb as a sack of kittens.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Is boiling down complex ideas for non-specialist audiences a hard thing to do at all well? Yes – which is why I admire good general-interest writing/journalism about science so much. But it’s a skill not a mystical vocation. I’m just suggesting it’s not only a healthy contribution to the culture for more scientists to develop that ability, but entirely in their enlightened self-interest. Science isn’t just about the seminar room and the research lab

    Scientists should (and often can) be able to boil down complex ideas for non-specialist audiences. But this was a talk for SCIENTISTS that, most unusually, was watched by a large international audience that probably had a large fraction of non-scientists.

    The slides for the ATLAS talk are here

    https://indico.cern.ch/getFile.py/access?contribId=1&resId=1&materialId=slides&confId=197461

    and even aside from the Comic Sans, they are clearly well-stuffed with technical detail. This was not intended to be an accessible talk, but it does a very good job of communicating with particle physicists. Of the people I know who were in the room, not one of them complained about the slides.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 256 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Accountants don't tend to rely on mustering public support for their funding quite so much as scientists. And an event spruiked and broadcast worldwide is somewhat different than a cosy seminar with an invited audience.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16277 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to richard,

    But this was a talk for SCIENTISTS that, most unusually, was watched by a large international audience that probably had a large fraction of non-scientists.

    snap

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16277 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    On the other hand, if you do want to see a talk on the LHC (and the Higgs) from a specialist, this will be a great event

    http://www.physics.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/home/events/template/event_item.jsp?cid=495704

    No promises about the Comic Sans though.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 256 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'll probably be there. I couldn't identify a font to save my life.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Sacha,

    Accountants don’t tend to rely on mustering public support for their funding quite so much as scientists.

    You gotta remember, though - scientists usually rely on public funding at the end of the chain, but the proximate source of funding and support for them is a) publication record and b) grant applications. These are communications with other scientists. You don't get rewarded for mucking around with lay audiences, quite frankly. Depending on your chain of supervision, it can be viewed as a direct detriment to the important work of improving your university's PBRF ranking. This isn't always the case - NASA, for example, places a lot of emphasis on education and public awareness - but it's pretty common.

    There's also a range of non-scientific audiences, from the well-educated non-specialist to schoolchildren. Communicating with all of them is different.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2092 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Depending on your chain of supervision, it can be viewed as a direct detriment to the important work of improving your university’s PBRF ranking. This isn’t always the case – NASA, for example, places a lot of emphasis on education and public awareness – but it’s pretty common.

    In the US, all NSF grants have a “broader impacts” component, and larger grants typically require a specific outreach plan. I have sat on NSF panels, and this was taken seriously.

    My own feeling is that it is not necessary for all scientists to be actively engaged with “the public” but that it is vital for some scientists to put effort into this, and at an institutional level it is important that this work be properly recognized and supported.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 256 posts Report Reply

  • Tony Siu,

    *Reading up on Higgs*

    And believe me, as someone who sat through a lot* of academic presentations, using Comic San font is not the worst thing ever!

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 74 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to richard,

    In the US, all NSF grants have a “broader impacts” component, and larger grants typically require a specific outreach plan. I have sat on NSF panels, and this was taken seriously.

    Fair point. But, ultimately, it's writing those grants - and publishing papers - which matters more to academic science careers than enacting that outreach. The attitudes I have encountered have, with some exceptions, been that the outreach elements of grants are hoops to jump through more than goals to be enthusiastic about. In NZ, the PBRF is, for individual researchers, pretty much entirely about number of papers published.

    My own feeling is that it is not necessary for all scientists to be actively engaged with “the public” but that it is vital for some scientists to put effort into this, and at an institutional level it is important that this work be properly recognized and supported.

    I agree entirely. I think we'd be much better off encouraging people into (and properly funding) science communication jobs - both as a channel for broader science communication and help for people who want to improve their direct communication with a lay audience. Expecting every scientist to develop expertise in engaging the public with their work overestimates the amount of spare time most researchers have available and underestimates the effort required to do so effectively.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2092 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Tony Siu,

    using Comic San font is not the worst thing ever!

    Indeed. I am grateful that they didn't use Papyrus.

    Lower Grey Lynn • Since Jul 2009 • 789 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Fair point. But, ultimately, it’s writing those grants – and publishing papers – which matters more to academic science careers than enacting that outreach. The attitudes I have encountered have, with some exceptions, been that the outreach elements of grants are hoops to jump through more than goals to be enthusiastic about. In NZ, the PBRF is, for individual researchers, pretty much entirely about number of papers published.

    Actually, in fairness to the PBRF (which has any number of shortcomings), it is more nuanced than that. Firstly, you can only lay claim to 34 "research outputs" over a six year period, so it is not purely quantitative -- at least in fields where people are fairly prolific, you will score higher with a smaller number of better papers. Secondly, there are two other categories "Peer Esteem" and "Contributions to the Research Environment" -- and the weighting is such that you can't score an "A" without doing well in all three. Public outreach is not tested explicitly, but does show up in these two categories. (My biggest complaint about the PBRF is that they gather a huge amount of data and then allocate everyone to just four categories A/B/C or R -- and I am guessing that you could accurately make the same determination with far less information. There is thus a huge compliance burden, although it is not an intrinsically unreasonable exercise.)

    I agree entirely. I think we’d be much better off encouraging people into (and properly funding) science communication jobs – both as a channel for broader science communication and help for people who want to improve their direct communication with a lay audience. Expecting every scientist to develop expertise in engaging the public with their work overestimates the amount of spare time most researchers have available and underestimates the effort required to do so effectively.

    I think your have put your finger on it here. Realistically, any given scientist will be more focussed on doing science than talking about science, so putting these requirements in grant rules looks like an imposition. But I did one "site visit" to an NSF center where they had hired an outreach person, and were running a really exemplary program -- it was inspiring, and made me rethink my own engagement.

    More generally though, whether they realize it or not, this effort by the NSF and others is driving a cultural shift, where the scientific community is expected to explicitly engage with the "community".

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 256 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    Off yer face...

    Indeed. I am grateful that they didn’t use Papyrus.

    ...or that other 'friendly' font: Curlz

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4555 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    In today's Herald, John Roughan weighs in. At first it's a little confusing:

    Who knows where that knowledge will lead? Next they will work out how to control the particle, then they will remove it to enable things - people - to travel at the speed necessary to explore the galaxy.

    But in concluding his purpose becomes clear:

    If science had not succumbed to environmental hubris, a generation of New Zealanders might have gained a geological view of this country ... Science has been dominated by environmentalism for too long. What it gained in political attention and research grants has come at a cost to its power to excite us. If a subatomic particle has opened a door to phenomena we can barely comprehend, science will be wonderful again.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But in concluding his purpose becomes clear:

    Sour grapes, much? And it's commercial hubris, not environmental hubris that's the problem.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4060 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to DeepRed,

    Sour grapes, much? And it’s commercial hubris, not environmental hubris that’s the problem.

    He takes it all back to his last year at school, in 1969, when a lady teacher enthused to the class about ecology. He seems to see the Higgs breakthrough as a return to proper Man Science.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene,

    Roughan is making hay from Met's LHC blurt, that would drive a wedge between the Envirodruids and Scientists.

    The last time this flared up was with the GE debate, which set the Left against its own. Here's a handful of heresies that they will have to cross swords with. One day, they will have to sit down and talk about thorium like adults.

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    Wow. A sequitur or two short of an argument there, I think. (Although he is right, geology is fascinating.)

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 256 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Lilith __,

    Fusion has it's own issues - no fission products, an off switch, but activation of the reactor structure similar to a fission reactor. A health physics paper is here.

    The main threat to the environment from fusion, however is that it will take many years to perfect (it's been 50+ years away for as long as I can remember). If we factor it in as an energy source, that means we don't scrap Huntly and the various gas-fired generators as soon as we could. Which will be somewhere between bad and terminal, depending on if you live on the coast or in the way of an oil war.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4361 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 6 7 8 9 10 13 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.