Inspiring Australia Day One

Well, there you go, then – the dangers of making rash predictions. If you tell people you’ll be live blogging, you can pretty well guarantee there won’t be a wifi connection. And so it proved to be. So instead, we’re going to have half-dead blogging – a great big brain dump before bed.

Most arresting factoid of the day: if you listened to all Robin Williams’ Science Show broadcasts one after the other, it would last about as long as a cat pregnancy.

But there was more important stuff than that, albeit a little less jaw-dropping. Nothing else gave me mental images of a pregnant cat listening intently to the latest news on the search for the Higgs Boson.¬† I now have a great urge to get a couple of cats, one called Higgs …

So: science communication matters – really matters – because so many of the decisions we make are based on science, and because citizens can only have a meaningful say in these if they are fully informed (despite the best efforts of the shock jocks to ensure that doesn’t happen. You didn’t hear me type that, did you?)

We need to work towards a scentifically engaged and articulate Australia where all can be involved.

For this to happen, there has to be

  • Vision and leadership
  • Coherent action
  • Promotion and celebration of science and scientists
  • An appreciation of the level of international recognition of Australian science; and
  • A willingness to take science to the public.

We need to build partnerships and use networks to – in Julia Gillard’s words ‘tell [your] brilliant story to the world’.

For this, we need scientists to be role models. There has to be a focus on youth – and on inspiring tachers who in turn inspire their students. We have to engage Australian communities and to undertake local action within a national framework.

We also need to recognise that there’s a valuable role for amateur scientists – for CITIZEN scientists. There’s an awful lot of stuff in science that needs eyes and ears. We should be engaging with people to be a sort of scientific equivalent of Sherlock Holmes’ Baker St Irregulars, to be those eyes and ears and be actively involved in DOING¬† science.

Dr Durrant, (for it was he, dear reader) then gave us a rather nice quote from John F Kennedy on the subject of the Inferno (Dante’s presumably). That ‘the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality’. Which says a great deal for Switzerland. And it does sound a bit odd coming from one of the Kennedys, a thoroughly unsavoury lot if ever there was one. But perhaps I shouldn’t let distaste and creeping moralism cloud my views. After all, those allegations about Marilyn Monroe’s death being a result of dalliances with both JFK and his brother Robert are just that: allegations. Tantalisingly persisitent, though.

A question. How do we balance information if we’re not experts? Well, you might get an answer from Andrew Bolt, who has never let mere lack of expertise get in the way of total certainty.

We need to change the conversation – to get strong representation of science in the media and to get smarter about using graphics and new media (wry smile from the wifi-less hordes). More to come after a wee break.


Welcome to Protoplasm Tango. In case you’re wondering about the name, it refers to a 6os song by a mathematician and musician called Tom Lehrer. The song, ‘Masochism Tango’, was not only very funny, but for the time, very daring. I hope you’ll find its near-namesake funny and a bit daring too.Even though this was the blog that was never going to be. But what the hell: things change. Today, a blog. Tomorrow – live-blogging. Wish me luck, and see you tomorrow.