Acclaimed actor Alan Alda (“M*A*S*H”, “The West Wing”) delivered the second Ken and Blaire Mossman Distinguished Lecture on Nov. 1 in Cox Auditorium.
Alda discussed his lifelong passion for science and his work to expand the field of science communication. Alda framed his lecture by examining how scientists can improve their communication with nonscientists.
Alda first asked the audience to think of something they knew well and wished others had that same knowledge. Throughout the lecture, Alda came back to that point, and talked about the importance of communication.
“Knowledge is a curse,” Alda said.
Alda asked a woman from the audience to come to the stage to demonstrate an example. He showed her a slip of paper with three well-known songs and told her to tap one song on a small drum on the stage. Alda then asked the audience to raise their hands if they knew the song. While the majority of the audience raised their hands, only a few guessed correctly.
Alda explored how the public can come around to love and respect science. He argued that both scientists and the public need to get past barriers in understanding science.
“The public is on a blind date with science,” said Alda when considering how the public does not have a loving understanding of science.
Alda compared an individual’s introduction to science with the first moments of a relationship. He said that the first two minutes are the most critical and that scientists need to work on making people care about and love science just as they would in a regular relationship.
“Put everything in a story,” he said.
Alda asked the audience to have an open relationship with science.
“We have to get on a personal and loving relationship with science,” he said.
The lecture concluded with a Q&A session with the audience.
Alda is a visiting professor in Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism and is the founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.
Written by James Hearn and Kaitlin Flippo
Featured image by Kaitlin Flippo
Edited by Katy Hill