Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When a new virus appears … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When Einstein wants to be vindicated … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When climate seems to go crazy … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When a new planet seems to be lurking in the Solar System … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need robots to enter nuclear plants … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When antibiotics are not effective anymore … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want to know how red the Red Planet is … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need a machine that cracks numbers quicker than you can … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want to optimize traffic … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need safer cars … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want energy for the future … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need clean water for the poor … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want to reinforce the bones of the elderly … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need to communicate faster … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want light rays to scan your body … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need particle beams to cure your tumors … Who you gonna call? Researchers!



Review paper on the physics of proton therapy: http://t.co/K70SdQEIg6

The Atlantic highlights some cool health-based spinoffs: http://t.co/UDYUSj3byI

High Speed Camera Used In Space Adapted To Scan Skin Cells http://t.co/W7Ealz5vh8

wi-fi and astronomy:

Eye-tracking technology developed for ISS research now being used in laser eye surgery http://t.co/w5fG9Y0Sd8 http://t.co/z6GoSBt72z

This is how the camera in your phone came to be.  The invention and early history of the CCD http://t.co/JBpD4388bg

Outrageous Outreach

You might have noticed that I’m still very excited about the discovery of gravitational waves … judging from the media I’m not the only one. This week gravitational waves hit the Late Show with Stephen Colbert 

This was not the first time science made it to tv shows: the Hubble Space Telescope was featured on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon: and not just once but twice!

Astronomy is so cool that it can be featured on the covers of music albums, such as Joy Divison’s or Megadeth’s:

Megadeth “Super Collider” album cover

Other than in music, science can end up in poems: you can find examples here on my blog or on Sam Illingworth’s
A master of outrageous outreach is certainly Stephen Hawking: he’s a regular at the Big Bang Theory tv show, has played quantum chess with actor Paul Rudd and, last but not least, appeared in holographic form to console a teenager saddened by One Direction’s split.


In another post I told you about CERN being featured at Rio Carnival but science looks good on dresses, too.
Make sure you check all of Shenova’s work as well as Startorialist‘s.
A welcome incursion in people’s everyday life is the installation of cosmic rays detector in one of Naples metro stations by the Italian Narional Institute for Nuclear Physics. 
The term Outrageous Outreach was coined in this paper about unconventional ways of bringing science to the wide public by meeting people where they are on the basis of their interests; a similar approach is the one I dubbed “Marketing Strategy” in my white paper about how to popularize science today

Cutting funds to scientific research: whose problem is it?

European Commission reveals details of proposed cuts to science. This is not new, unfortunately. However, what is worse is that the answer to these cuts from the scientific community is the same as always: it’s an inevitable fatality of the crisis and the lack of understanding of our representatives in government.

In the article, dated January 15, we read:

Research advocacy organizations lobbied last month to protect Horizon 2020, but their response this week has been muted. “I’m surprised that there isn’t a louder outcry and no clearer opposition from the scientific community,” Hans-Olaf Henkel, a member of the European Parliament, told Science|Business. “What are these ministers for research, presidents of science organisations, and scientists themselves doing? Where is the outcry by all European Nobel laureates?”

It would seem a few scientific organizations have protested just recently: it’s been through a letter addressed to the European Commission, the same who have proposed the cuts, so I cannot help finding it funny. You wanna change the minds of political representatives? You gotta change the minds of their constituency! If the public is not onboard with science as a mission for society we will continue to witnees this sad game of letters exchanged by higher-ups, that delivers absolutely nothing.

I believe the problem is in thinking it is up to Nobel Laureates to efficiently lobby and save the day for science. Defunding research, at this point, is clearly not a matter of technical merit, it is rather due to how the public perceives the social utility of research. The scientific community should undertake a serious campaing for engaging the public, for example through the many activities I propose here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.0082. A trademark of my strategy is to adopt the audience’s language and appeal to its own interests. Just like what is done in marketing. Therefore it is not a heresy to mix scientific content with languages that are either non-scientific or even non-verbal, including theatre, dance, video-games, comics or rap music.

A key element is to look at communications as something that concerns a whole university instead of just a single scientific group or department. Notably by building collaborations among them, university departments will be able to take full advantage of the multi-disciplinary nature of an education institution. Numerous, ready-to-use examples are presented in my white paper that do not necessarily cost more money than the existing budget available to departments. Initiatives range from a dance show about black holes to translating existing material and citizen science. In so doing a university turns the necessity of reaching out into an investment for itself: it could establish itself as a rare beacon in the education panorama, providing its students with a diverse portfolio of work experiences and educating them toward creativity. If, and only if, the Ivory Tower of knowledge opens its doors, it becomes a better known and more attractive place, whose usefulness and proximity to the public are shared concepts. Only at this point it will be possible to efficiently lobby for science at political assemblies because it will be the public to require it as a right to its wellbeing, in the present and the future.

An outreach Odyssey

I’m delighted to discover the translation into French of the book “A Zeptospace Odyssey“, written by eminent theoretical physicist Dr. Gian Giudice from CERN, about the LHC and the hunt for the Higgs. The translation is the result of work by students and staff of the Faculty of Translation of the University of Geneva, in Switzerland.
The reason why I’m very happy to see this translation is because it constitutes a practical and successful realization of one of the ideas for outreach I propose in my paper “Who cares about physics today? A marketing strategy for the survival of fundamental science and the benefit of society”. To efficiently satisfy the mandatory and diverse communications needs of scientists, in my proposal I specifically identify universities for the role they can play in outreach: being multi-disciplinary hubs by constitution, these institutions could improve use of their assets by having their many departments collaborate. This synergy is very beneficial for the students involved in the process: in fact they are provided with hands-on job experiences, which, being multi-disciplinary, are particularly professionalizing for a chameleonic job market.
The university itself benefits from this strategy in much the same way as from an investment: putting into contact its human resources, it can take fruits which are more numerous and rich than those available from summing the individual separated contributions; furthermore, it can shape its curriculum in a particularly distinctive and concrete way, thus securing students enrollments and investments from satisfied alumni.
I’ve recently presented this set of ideas at the University of Nottingham, which hosted the 2013 “Science in Public” conference and kindly granted me the opportunity of exposing in the parallel session titled “Public communication of science and technology by universities, research centres, scientists or researchers and society rights”. In this context I could stress once more what I think is a crucial attitude to be adopted for science outreach nowadays: to switch from the research mantra “publish or perish” to the communication one “be cool or perish”. In order to prosper, science has to show off its “sexy” side (read: usefulness and proximity to people): failure to do so will represent an Odyssey for both science and outreach.

Ideas are sexy too!

Ideas are sexy too!