"The Colbert Report," "Conan," and Science Education
Michio Kaku is a futurist, popularizer of science, and theoretical physicist, as well as a bestselling author and the host of two radio programs. He is the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory. He holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics and a joint appointment at City College of New York and the Graduate Center of C.U.N.Y. He is also a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.
Kaku launched his Big Think blog, "Dr. Kaku's Universe," in March 2010.
Recently, I had the rare opportunity to be on both The Colbert Report and the Conan show. As you can imagine, we had a madcap, hilarious romp through time travel, invisibility, space warps, wormholes, and string theory (all in a few minutes of air time). Although Stephen Colbert and Conan O'Brien are both celebrated comedians, they had an ulterior motive, I think, in inviting me on their shows—and this is a concern for science education in the U.S. Although they try to squeeze every joke they can out of their guests, they are also concerned that our society is not educating its students, especially in science and math. After my interview, Conan even brought up the subject, lamenting how poorly U.S. students did in the recent science and math exams, ranking nearly last among the advanced countries. Of course, no comedy program can remedy this problem. But the fact that they even considered using their popular shows to address this problem shows their deep concern.
We are all born scientists. All of us are born wondering why the sun shines, or why it rains, or where we all came from. However, this innocent, child-like curiosity disappears during the "danger years," i.e. after the age of 14 or so. Or, more accurately, this curiosity is crushed out of our students by the educational system and also by social pressures. Our schools teach science as if it were a dead subject, consisting of memorizing useless facts that have no relevance to students' lives. Sometimes, we professors lament this and blame the students, insinuating that they are not very smart. However, I think otherwise. I think the students are so smart that they have figured out by themselves that science, as it is taught, is largely irrelevant to their future.
There are also social pressures as well. Our culture and Hollywood celebrate the high school years, creating a myth of a certain pryamid, (with the jocks and beautiful people at the top, and the nerds at the bottom). This pyramid, if it exists at all, only holds for about 3-4 years of high school. After that, the pyramid largely turns upside down. So our culture gives the distorted impression that the heirarchy of high school is permanent, while actually it holds only for an insignificant period of one's lifespan.
The reality is that our world is geting more scientific, not less. No one is going back to an earlier time when science was not so important. And to meet this challenge, we have to prepare our students better to meet the challenge of a technological future. (And if we don't do this, our competitor nations will, and leave us in the dust).
There are many complex aspects of this problem, which I will try to address in future blogs. Be sure to stay tuned!
The controversy around the Torah codes gets a new life.
- Mathematicians claim to see a predictive pattern in the ancient Torah texts.
- The code is revealed by a method found with special computer software.
- Some events described by reading the code took place after the code was written.
Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.
- Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
- Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club
- Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
- It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
- This ability may come from a common ancestor
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