It’s become a kind of mantra that scientists are failing at explaining science to regular people. But I don’t think this is the real problem. Some scientists excel in theoretical work, others at designing experiments, and still others at teaching. If there’s any problem with scientists, it’s that the scientific community tends to revere research and not give enough respect to great teaching.
I would give University of the Sciences chemistry professor Fred Schaefer an A+ in science explanation. He not only enjoys teaching students, he volunteers a serious chunk of his time to demonstrate chemistry to kids of all ages. The demos happen every month at a restaurant/brewery in Germantown with the memorable name Earth, Bread and Brewery. (Disclaimer: This post might be biased because Fred is a fellow Laser sailor and always brings a growler of some incredible “Earth” invention to drink when we’re finished racing.)
I acted as his assistant during the Science Festival last month, when he spent hours demonstrating the magic of reality - sending electrical currents through gases, using dry ice and indicators to create dramatic color changes, and performing various reactions that foamed, bubbled or occasionally exploded. The best part was seeing the astonishment and wonder on the faces of the little kids. May they never lose that natural curiosity.
The show starts at 6 and runs until about 9 pm. The brewery also has a great tradition of experimentation. Fred informs me they never brew the exact same beer twice. Read more about Earth, Bread and Brewery here.
(photo credit: University of the Sciences/Scott Hewitt Photography)