Geek As Citizen: Science Awareness

Scientist Scope Technology Science

Neil deGrasse Tyson gives me hope. And not just that a relatively nerdy guy can become an intellectual sex symbol (according CERTAIN people in my twitter feed). It’s that we can make paying attention and knowing science cool again. Because we need to, and the remade Cosmos is a great start.

It seems as of late science isn’t cool.

  • Of course there’s climate change, where apparently 97% of scientists agreeing about it leaves room for controversy, especially if fat donations and speaking gigs can be wedged into that room.
  • There’s the disgusting anti-vaccination crusade that means we get measles back to kill our kids. There’s a nice story of leaving the anti-vaxx movement here or you can just stew in anger over the body count site whose URL mocks Jenny Mc Carthy.
  • Abstinence only education doesn’t work, though people still seem to think talking about it will convince people it does. Having been a teenager and remembering it, and looking at the numbers, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.

We probably need to clone Neil deGrasse Tyson (Ok, you folks on Twitter, calm down, you know who you are). But baring the possibility of using dark technology to create an Army of Tysons* it’s up to us to enhance science awareness.

It’d kind of be par for the course.

Geeks And Science

Not all geeks are science types. Sure some of us may like SF but we’re not that into technology and don’t actively theorize how a warp drive could work.** We’re into stuff, but not into the atoms and connections and code and biology of things.

But, still, science intersects very well with geekery. Geeks are about knowing things and making things happen, so almost inevitably some science comes into our spheres. It may be the knowledge of how glue works or the reason bread smells so good***. We may not be into hard sciences, or popular sciences, or deep into them, but they always combine with the fact we’re into things.

We’re about knowing AND doing. So we’re advocates for the knowing part.

So I think it’s well with in our “position as citizens” to advocate science. Well, that and . . .

Ignorance Will Get Us Killed

Society right now depends on a lot of science, from vaccinations that provide “herd immunity” to manufacturing electronics. We face challenges from mutating viruses and climate change that we caused. Our economics are to say the least a bit challenging, and we need good sober math and research as opposed to some random hacks melting down on TV for a paycheck.

Now I’d like us to be involved in science and society as citizens. As responsible adults. As people who care. But also really, ignorance is going to freaking kill us if we’re not careful, and the last thing I want on my memorial is for people to say “I wish more people got vaccinated” – I have far different plans for my death****.

A more complex society needs people capable of participating in it. That means knowledge and applying t. Guess who’s good at that?

So what can we do?

Getting Science Active

Now I’ll be the first to admit involvement in science is mostly making sure my politicians know what the hell it is, and pointing people at career-relevant information. It’s only lately that I’ve begun asking “just how can we make a difference” – mostly due to the anti-vaxx and climate change issues.

(I’ve decried a lack of economic knowledge enough as it is).

So after having a little brainstorming session, here’s my ideas:

  • I’d like to see more Science panels at conventions, period. There have been some pretty awesome ones I’ve seen in the past, from hyperdrive to giant robots. Go encourage them at conventions and even speak on them.
  • Do events at conventions that address Real Science issues and focus on activism. How can people make a difference on vaccination, climate change, science education, and so on. Yes, there will be controversy, but we’re geeks, were used to people getting worried over video games turning us into killers.
  • Get your group/club/whatever involved in Citizen Science or do it yourself. If you’re a cosplayer, model-buildier, or similar hands-on person there’s lot you can do. Heres a list – and from what I’ve seen when I get “Make” magazine, the maker culture is intersecting with citizen science culture.
  • Pick a science cause important to you and get involved using the geek skills and connections you have. Sure people may not be into ornithology, or think you’re a budding super-villain, but why not?
  • Use your various clubs and organizations to get people involved in science and educational causes.
  • Vote science. That means knowing when your senator thinks that the earth was created in 6000 years and that chemtrails summon Hastur.
  • Involve your local convention in science charities.
  • Donate time to museums and exhibits about important scientific things. Arrange to see if they want to speak at a convention or club.

This is just what’s off the top of my head. I’m sure you can think of more, and of course will share it with me then write a column about it.

We Need More Science

We certainly need more scientific awareness. The world is changing fast, some of our bills are coming due, and there’s enough people comfortable to the level where they can indulge in the luxury of being ingorant.

Well, we geeks were always about doing stuff and knowing things, even before people had a name for us. Time to do it again.

– Steven Savage

* Get writing people.
** Story idea. A warp drive is developed but a bunch of science deniers make up BS claims that it doesn’t.
*** The Maillard reaction, courtesy of Louis-Camille Maillard, who sounds like one awesome dude who also fought in WWI. This guy is movie script material.
**** Roughly “not because someone else did something dumb, thank you.”
***** When the news decides that MLP merchandise kills, let me know.