Making science popular

This GD thread is a debate over whether Science is ‘screwing up the battle for American minds’.

I’m not looking for a debate here. Instead, what are some ideas for getting people to gain knowledge about the sciences and the scientific process.

I was fortunate in that I was born during The Space Age. Hey! We’re sending people to the Moon! How cool is that? My friend’s grandfather worked at an aerospace company in San Diego (Convair?) and they had an Atlas missile on display, lying on its side. Dad was a pilot. All of this instilled in me a desire to learn about aeronautics.

But then came the 1973 oil embargo. The was in Vietnam was still going on, and we were losing. The Watergate Scandal. Recession. People had other things to worry about, and interest in the space programme waned. (I still had my Estes rockets, though! :wink: ) Still, the space programme generated a lot of interest in science.

Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan brought us Cosmos. Here was a show that took us on a journey in a ‘ship of the mind’, and presented astronomy, geosciences and evolution in a format that was very entertaining and accessable. One episode showed Sagan in a classroom, teaching kids about the Universe. They seemed excited and interested. (Of course, they had to be for the show; but ya gotta admit that kids get excited about interesting things.) Another contemporary show was The Day The Universe Changed, which was a very entertaining and often hilarious show about invention.

I missed the Mr. Wizard show, but I did watch Bill Nye, The Science Guy. (‘Science rules!’). Now there was a fun way to learn about doing experiments!

When I was a kid I had a Radio Shack 100-In-1 electronics kit. There were electronic components attached to little springs so that you could wire them together to make a variety of interesting electronic devices. (Unfortunately, I was more interested in making the devices that I was about learning the underlying theory.) I’ve already mentioned model rockets, which taught a lot of kids practical lessons in Newtonian physics and in aeronautics. And who could forget chemistry sets?

There are still a wide variety of educational toys that teach young minds about aeronautics, weather, astronomy, archaeology, and more. But I get the impression that interest in them is not as great as when I was a kid. Maybe it’s just because I was more interested in that sort of thing when I was young, than I was about building model cars.

What gets me is that many people I meet seem to lack the ability to think critically, or at least do not have a desire to. We like the products of science and engineering, but it seems that we don’t understand them or have the desire to learn.

So. How can we make the desire for scientific learning as great as I perceived it to be during Apollo? How can we spark the fire of learning on a grand scale?

The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled. – Plutarch