[ASC-media] ASC NSW Division event report: US Science Communication Highlights: Big, Bigger and Astronomical!

Elva Cha echa4002 at mail.usyd.edu.au
Thu Nov 30 19:09:57 CET 2006

ASC NSW Division event report: US Science Communication Highlights: Big,
Bigger and Astronomical!

By Elva Cha
Secretary and Student Representative of the NSW ASC Division

On Thursday, 23 November, we were taken on a journey exploring physics
outreach and science communication in North America. Dr Phil Dooley from
the School of Physics at the University of Sydney and President of the NSW
ASC gave the audience an informed and entertaining overview of his
observations of the biggest and best run programs and cutting edge
projects during his three weeks travel to science communication
institutions and programs including Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, The
American Museum of Natural History and the Ontario Science centre.

A few highlights of the journey through North American included
observations of;

Wellesley College offered teaching opportunities in the physical sciences
with the aim of encouraging science students to enter the teaching sector.

Discussion on whether outreach and media profiles improve grant success and
scientists should be celebrities.

The Ontario Science Centre offered a ‘hot zone’ foyer, equivalent to the
Time Square of Science which included 5 minute hourly news ‘hot spots’,
surveys, an interactive floor and a challenge zone where teams would
tackle an engineering problem and build machines out of a variety of
available materials. Through such exercises, it was determined that after
about 7-8 minutes of activity, people tend to lose their creativeness.
This provoked the comment that perhaps executive meetings should only be
for such a short duration, as people tend to run out of ideas after the 8
minute mark!

The American Museum of Natural History in New York encompassed a ‘Rose
Planetarium’ section, worth $100 million, wherein famous celebrities such
as Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford and Meryl Streep have recorded
voice overs for the planetarium shows.

Overall, the event gave the audience an appreciation of the large scale of
science projects offered in the US, with emphasis on such areas which
could have implications on science projects in Australia.

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