Why Enthusiasm Matters
When you think of science what comes to mind?
Maybe, but the image resonating with me contains a whole lot of THIS:
Sometimes it’s easy to forget, what we’re being taught is BRILLIANT. Remember, some -likely long dead- scientist devoted A LOT of time to understand what we cover in a lecture.
Learning shouldn’t be reduced to memorizing a list of facts for an exam. Instead, consist of a love for learning, because the way nature expresses herself depicts beauty.
All too often the message is lost in translation from lecturer to student. As power point presentations and monotone vocalization isn’t exactly awe inspiring.
This type of teaching doesn’t spread enthusiasm. So when we interact and communicate science to the public, it is often dull and clinical. Ensuring a bleak view of the back of heads while people wobble away, when you start talking science at a party.
The following people constitute my favorite scientists, because they inspire in me, what lecturers cannot. Passion and enthusiasm.
The pleasure of finding things out:
Richard Feynman (RIP). If the mention of that name doesn’t give you all kinds of jiggly motion; you’ve either never heard of this eccentric genius or, you’re dead inside. If you prescribe yourself to the former, you’re in for a bit of a treat.
Richard Feynman, a Nobel Laureate, physicist and overall Fine-Man (get it *nudge nudge*) is my hero for three reasons:
1. His uncanny ability to solve complex problems using his algorithm.
– Write down the Problem.
– Think very hard.
– Write down the Solution.
2. His ability to be at the center of adventures:
– Cracking safes while working on the Manhattan project.
– Playing the bongos.
– Working physics problems on the back of napkins in topless bars.
– Trying to visit Tuva.
3. Being the Great Explainer, no doubt helped by his unique personality:
– What’s going on with trees? And what’s fire all about?
Watch the full interview, “The pleasure of Finding things out,” simply illuminating (hint: It’s on youtube).
Feynman’s undying enthusiasm reminds us why we study science; because it’s beautiful, interesting and there’s always another question.
A bit of a wild man:
As variety is the spice of life, I present a scientist at the opposite end the spectrum. A zoologist, although you may not know him by that title.
When one thinks of the giants of science communication and education, the late croc hunter, Steve Irwin (RIP) does not often come to mind. The fact is though, this national treasure, famous for his television series “The Crocodile Hunter,” was anything but a wild cowboy.
His love of nature and wildlife –big and small- shone through the screen. Oozing of gooey enthusiasm and sheer unpredictability is what made him captivating.
One of my favorite things about the beloved ‘croc hunter,’ is that he knew all too well that in order to educate an audience, you must first entertain them. A lesson some university lecturers have heeded.
Check out a website one of the students made of our side-splittingly funny Engineering Computation lecturer [Sir Alistair Moffat]. A student with too much time on their hands. [WARNING: Turn your volume down!]
The equivalent in Irwin’s case was tackling the biggest crocs and throwing in a science fact every now and then. Whatever the method, enthusiasm in science only leads to better education and communication to the public.
But don’t take my word for it,
With his signature cream short-shorts and vibrant personality, Steve shows us why we wouldn’t want him any other way.
Quirky, enthusiastic and unpredictable with a few screws loose. What a true blue aussie. That’s a mate you’d crack open a stubby (VB of course) and fire up the Barbie for.
That’s why enthusiasm matters – because without it, we take for granted what we know and teach. If we -as students of science- don’t get excited about it, who will?