Saturday, September 18, 2010

Communicating Science via Film

I'm currently reading Randy Olson's Don't Be Such a Scientist, hoping to broaden my perspective on effective science communication. The book's subtitle, "talking substance in an age of style," captures what is challenging and aggravating to scientists who encounter resistance to evidence-based, fact-filled explanations about topics such as evolution and climate change.
Dr. Olson, a PhD from Harvard, with a background in evolution and ecology, also has an MFA in fimmaking from USC. He left the narrow arena of peer-reviewed journals and significantly expanded the audience he reaches through his website and films. Next week, he'll be at the University of Maine at Orono for three days, where panel discussions will follow screenings of several of his films, including Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus, Salt of the Earth: A Journey into the Heart of Maine Lobster Fishermen, and the improbably titled, Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy. I'm heading up Thursday for Sizzle, leaving the COA campus at 2:30. Students, let me know if you'd like a ride.
He's come a long way as a filmmaker, but Randy Olson's early short, Barnacles Tell No Lies, is still an excellent illustration of the contrast between the accurate, thorough, and fact-filled, yet ultimately unilluminating approach of a college lecture (however unfairly stereotyped) and the power of humor and compelling visuals that film is so good at.

No comments: