We Should Be Able to Think Like Scientists

Physicist
“We live in an era where science is important to the decisions we make,” the Harvard physicist points out.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: How can scientists reach out to the public more effectively?

Lisa Randall: I think, I’ve obviously made the choice to speak to the public at some level and it’s in part because I enjoy writing and I enjoy being able to think creatively in different ways.  I don’t think that any one particular scientist is obliged to do this, to speak to people.  But I do think that as a community, if we are expecting resources, it’s very difficult material and I think it’s important that the information is out there.

When I wrote my book “Warped Passages,” I really had in mind an interested audience.  I think it’s very easy to try to pander to a large audience – not easy, but – or to write technical things for your audience, but there’s sort of this in-between category of people where they’re really smart and really interested, but they just don’t know the physics yet, and I think it’s important that if they wanted to know what we’re doing and why it’s important and what the full implications are, then that information is out there in a way that they can access.  And I just think, generally, it’s important to be able to communicate among different fields.  We live in an era where science is important to the decisions we make.  Is what happens at the LHC going to determine our policy toward it?  Not necessarily, but being able to think like a scientist on some level we’ll be able to think about predictions and risk and probabilities.  There’s some basic science training that might help people, but there’s also just curiosity about the world which everyone has and understanding why we care about these questions, what it is that we’re looking for and why it’s going to tell us these deep fundamental properties of the universe at both a small scale and the large scale.  Scales that we can directly access just by looking, that we need technology for and saying what is it that we’re after?  And I think those are – a lot of people want to know that, and it’s important that they have access to that information.

Recorded on February 17, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen