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Editor's Letter: Breaking Ground

Caroline Feeney

March 6, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST

A school bell rings. On the screen, a man takes two jars and places a mini globe and thermometer inside each one. He pumps carbon dioxide into one jar and leaves the other filled with air. A heat lamp hovers over both, and the temperature rises higher and faster in the carbon dioxide jar. Voila. Climate change 101 narrated by the one and only Bill Nye. I’m transported back to fifth grade.

“The Science Guy” invigorated and lit up my elementary classroom. The ingenuity of the Nyentific method isn’t that he dumbs things down — it’s that he makes us feel smart.

In MU’s “Decoding Science” symposium, Nye is one of eight speakers who will present methods for making science accessible and exciting. Vox previews the free event and profiles several of the speakers assembled by Jack C. Schultz, the director of the Bond Life Sciences Center.

In light of the symposium, Vox explores the concern about a disconnect between American attitudes and science. Technology is just one example. Despite the two and a half billion people connected to the Internet and the need for more computer programmers, few schools introduce kids to computer science early on. Decades after Nintendo and the pixelated Mario Bros., adults and kids alike hold iPads projecting seamless images without giving a second thought to how it all works.

The faces of these science communication pioneers might not be as well recognized as the Kardashians, but they are celebrities of their own kind, and their pursuits far more worthy. To improve the science-public dialogue, we have to meet them halfway.

After all, if a scientist can explain the sound a tree makes when it falls in the forest, but no one else understands it, we won’t ever break ground.

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