The paradox in the title of Sharon MacDonald's article
"Exhibitions and the Public Understanding of Science Paradox" is that
more science in the public arena has not led to better public understanding,
but rather more illiteracy and misinformation about science. One side of
the paradox underlies the growing importance of science in society and the
diverse ways it is thrown at the public, the other effect reflects the pressure
on the public to evaluate, reason and make judgements - as the temperature goes
up so does the entropy. Rather than an insoluble paradox, MacDonald sees
the broader approach of science museums to science as culture as a positive
move to engender the "wow" factor in science and stimulate the public
to ask questions rather than seek answers.
In "The View from the Rhine", Wolfgang Goede gives
a brief review of the present state of science communication in Germany.
He describes details of a training programme for science journalists and
scientists in which the aim is to bridge the gap between science and the
public. Science reporting is gaining in importance in Germany and the
project Goede describes will enhance the training of journalists in science
skills as well as helping scientists to be more media aware - and even to
In her article "Clio meets Minerva", Barbara
Tuchanska poses the provocative conclusion that the historical nature of
science is not fully taken into account by philosophers of science.
Tuchanska identifies two problems: First, the abstraction of historical
events in science for the purpose of analysis of itself displaces the events
from their historical perspective. Second, history is seen as
descriptive, whereas philosophy of science is about models and is in essence
ahistorical. Tuchanska argues that the way through these tensions
is to view continuity in science as part of its own self-making process, and as
a result neither historical nor philosophical aspects of science have a
Literary metaphors in science are often interesting and
revealing, but the reverse process i.e. scientific (or mathematical) metaphors
in literature are much rarer and when they occur have a special
fascination. In "The Geometry of a Paper" Daylene Zielinski
describes an analogy between fractal geometry and essay writing. The
former arises out of chaos theory and describes iterative schemes which give
rise to often quite bizarre mathematical structures, which abound in
nature. Zielinski shows how these fractal structures provide a template
for essay writing and she incorporates this analogy in her essay writing
classes to her students to good effect.
As this issue is coming out the Mars lander Beagle 2 is hurtling towards the red planet. It is due to land on Mars on 25th December and, barring accidents, may be able to shed light on whether there is or has ever been life on Mars. Whatever happens, congratulations to Colin Pillinger and his team. We will know soon enough the answer to the "Life on Mars" question, either through Beagle 2, if it is successful, or some other future project. But what is different, now in the UK, is that the final frontier for science has been reached and breached - yes, I am referring to the media spotlight, the public relations dream. Don't knock it: scientists have been battling for decades in the UK to make headway in the popular press and TV with a front-page story reported in an accurate and sensible way. They may not find life on Mars, but the Beagle 2 team have certainly shown the way to communicate science.