Alan Alda At #ACSIndy: The Public’s Blind Date With Science
Sep09

Alan Alda At #ACSIndy: The Public’s Blind Date With Science

Actor Alan Alda might be best known for his portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H, but these days he’s also becoming well-known in another capacity—as a science communicator. For those who lost track of him after his time sparring with Hot Lips Houlihan, this might seem odd. (And if you did, you simply must watch the movie “The Four Seasons”—you won’t regret it). But since 2009, Alda has been on the advisory board of the Center For Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. In fact, he helped found CCS and has become a passionate advocate for helping scientists interact more effectively with the public. Yesterday at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Indianapolis, Alda bonded with a standing-room-only crowd (“I’m so glad to be in this huge beaker with you,” he said) and shared his views on why scientists need to do better. Right now, he theorized, “the public is on a blind date with science.” They’re wondering, can I trust this stranger? Will I be attracted to this stranger when we meet? To the public, Alda explained, it’s an uncomfortable, slightly scary, situation, just like those awkward setups friends force upon one another. To drive home his point, he showed a man-on-the-street video in which a film crew asked a random assortment of folks to define a few terms: “element” and “organic compound.” Let’s just say they had a lot of problems with the latter and made some vague grumblings about the former belonging in a table. I cringed when one woman suggested the identity of one element: “fire.” I’m sure there are many factors contributing to why the public has trouble even defining the word element. But Alda contends that one reason might be that scientists have what’s called “the curse of knowledge.” To illustrate this problem, he took a volunteer from the audience in Indianapolis and asked her to silently choose a song from a list he had in his pocket. Then he instructed her to tap it out for the audience. She predicted that at least 80% of the viewers would figure out the tune from her microphone tappings, but after her performance, only 25% were able to name it (“My Country ‘Tis Of Thee”). Scientists have knowledge in their heads, and it seems perfectly clear to them, but it doesn’t always translate well to others, Alda explained. After years of hosting Scientific American Frontiers on PBS (1993 to 2005), Alda has gathered a number of tips on communicating science. Using a conversational tone is one, of course. Story telling is another, he told the crowd in Indianapolis. But not just telling any story....

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Chemical and laboratory safety at #ACSIndy
Sep05

Chemical and laboratory safety at #ACSIndy

The 246th ACS National Meeting starts on Sunday, so it's time to highlight the chemical and laboratory safety programming. If you're heading to the meeting, be sure to take along the Division of Chemical Health & Safety's handy CHAS-at-a-Glance. SUNDAY Division of Chemical Health & Safety Executive Committee breakfast meeting, open to ACS members; 8:30 am-noon, Convention Center room 142 Division of Chemical Health & Safety Awards; 1:30-2:40 pm, Convention Center room 115 New Horizons in Chemical Health and Safety; 2:50-6:40 pm, Convention Center room 115 MONDAY Committee on Chemical Safety combined open meeting and executive session; 8:30-11:30 am, JW Marriott Grand Ballroom 3; agenda is here Managing Reactive Chemistry; 1:00-5:40 pm, Convention Center Wabash Ballroom 2 Air Monitoring; 1:30-5:25 pm, Crowne Plaza at Historic Union Station room Penn Station B Social Hour; 5:30-7:30 pm, Skyline Club, 36th Floor, One American Square TUESDAY Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories; 9:00 am-noon, 1:30-4:45 pm, Convention Center room 141. This symposium includes introduction of a new ACS publication on hazard analysis. WEDNESDAY Air Monitoring poster session (6:00-8:00 pm, Convention Center Halls F&G) You can chat with Division of Chemical Health & Safety or Committee on Chemical Safety representatives and see what resources they have at booth 523 in the Exhibition Hall. You can also follow the division at its @acsdchas and @labsustain twitter...

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C&EN Picks Videos: ACS Indianapolis Meeting #ACSIndy
Aug20

C&EN Picks Videos: ACS Indianapolis Meeting #ACSIndy

How can chemists protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticides? Why is a company that makes video game graphics processors sponsoring an ACS meeting competition? The answers to these questions and more are in this round of C&EN Picks, our video highlights of newsworthy ACS National Meeting sessions. See you in Indianapolis on September 8! UPDATE 9/9/13: It's come to our attention that in Sunday's video, the photos for Daniel Kittle and Bret Huff were switched. We'd like to apologize to them and to you for the oversight, and to thank Vicky Kittle and Milea Kammer, who brought this to our attention on...

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