Something that has become very clear to me is that science and popular culture don't mix as often as they should. There is a large portion of the general public that doesn't understand science, thinks it's boring, and has no interest in pursuing any other information about science.
Yet, maybe that's not a fair nor a correct characterization. According to the National Science Foundation's most recent survey on public attitude's about science and technology, more than 80% of Americans reported that they were very or moderately interested in new scientific discoveries. Public interest in science and technology topics is higher in the US than in many other countries, including European countries, China, and South Korea. 59% of Americans visited an informal science venue (such as a museum or zoo) in 2007. So, maybe the problem isn't a lack of interest. Perhaps the problem is a lack of effective communication by scientists and the lack in the number of opportunities given to explore science.
As one example, when Planet Earth was shown on the Discovery Channel in the United States in 2007, it became cable's most-watched event of all time, reaching over 100 million viewers. Not too shabby, if we're still working under the assumption that people think science is boring. Well, maybe people just really like listening to Sigourney Weaver's voice. Another example can be found on CBS's primetime block. The Big Bang Theory is a show that premiered in 2007 that centers around 4 scientists, and incorporates a surprising amount of (correct) science, while at the same time including an equal amount of humor. By the time it reached its third season in 2009, it was CBS's highest-rated show for its time slot among adults 18-49.
Obviously, when science is presented effectively and accessibly, it's not ignored.
With the advent of the internet, and the recent additions to the internet with Internet 2.0 and social media, there are now vast opportunities for spreading science to a wider audience in a way that's accessible. Online networking can make a video go "viral" in a matter of hours, and it's easier now than it ever has been to share content online.
I'd like to highlight one project in particular that does a marvelous job of spreading science to a wide audience. It's a project by a man named John Boswell, and it's called the Symphony of Science. The concept might sound a little weird, but just go with it: auto-tuned scientists singing. John takes clips from shows and interviews with scientists, auto-tunes their voices, and sets it to music. It's pretty wonderful and the songs are catchy. He uses the voices of scientists such as Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins, and more. It's a neat project and one of the best examples I've found of merging science and art (not to mention a bit of philosophy as well) in an accessible way. You don't have to understand all the concepts the videos cover, but you can still easily be inspired by them.
The first video, "A Glorious Dawn," has garnered over 5 million hits, and is embedded below.
My favorite video, "The Poetry of Reality" is also embedded below.
If you want to learn more about the project, check out John's website, which I linked to earlier. Or, you can check out his Youtube channel. He also has a Twitter, if you are Twitter-inclined.
This is the first post of a series I'm planning to do about how Science and Popular Culture mix and complement each other, so if you enjoyed this one, well, super. You're going to get more similar to this.