This month us Sci.Commers spent a few days traveling around southern Ontario. We visited some great science communicators in Waterloo and Toronto. I particularly enjoyed visiting the Perimeter Institute and the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) in Waterloo. The outreach departments at both places were extremely welcoming and gave us great behind-the-scenes tours. At IQC, it was interesting to see how much work is put into their communications and outreach. Explaining quantum physics is extremely difficult and at IQC they put a lot into helping visitors understand the research they do. At Perimeter Institute our guide was science communication alumnus Lisa Lambert. Not only did she give a great tour, but we all were inspired after hearing her talk about her career and where the science communication program took her.
All in all everyone had a great time and learned so much about science communication in the 'real-world'.
This picture shows a few SciCom students at the ROM. One of the things you learn in science communications is to look at things from a new angle, to take a really complicated science concept and look at it differently. You want to find analogies and metaphors to make it easy to understand. In this picture we were just trying to get a good look at the different animal mosaics on the ceiling. However we did have some visitors ask us what we were doing!
Returning to looking at things from a new angle... When we went to the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo we had a chance to meet with Marcus Chown. He is a former radio astronomer and now a cosmology consultant for the New Scientist as well as an author of several popular science books on cosmology and theoretical physics (including one for kids!). We had the chance to pick Marcus Chown's brain for an hour. We mostly asked him questions about being an author and strategies for science communication. Among the interesting things we learned from Marcus Chown, here are 3 of my favourites:
1. In order to make a career in writing you need to be very persistent. You also need to be imaginative and present concepts in a new way.2. After doing an interview or seeing something you are going to write about, wait. Wait 24 hours before writing so that when you do write, you will only remember the most important points and won't discuss the unimportant stuff.3. The Pauli Exclusion Principle was the most complicated concept he has explained in his books. It took him the longest time to find an analogy to make this principle more understandable.