liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
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[ profile] coalescent reminded me that I've been meaning to blog this for a while but it got buried in the thesis panic: Het Grauniad ran an article fairly similar to my competition asking for single things that are essential for people to know. Incidentally, [ profile] gnimmel, if you're reading this, you haven't claimed your prize!

So the Guardian asks What is the one thing everyone should learn about science?. Of course, being a national newspaper they asked famous scientists rather than random people on my flist, but it's very much the same kind of idea. (Though my competition started off from science I didn't restrict it quite so much.) It's interesting how people have interpreted the question; some of them are quite meta and want to tell people things about science, whereas others pick scientific facts, ie observations about how the world works as interpreted by science.

I don't like a lot of the suggestions in the article. Some of them are very much playing up to damaging stereotypes of what science is. Science in some people's statements is coming across as a sort of peevish old man who wants to keep people from believing anything that gives them comfort or joy, whether religion or spirituality or the paranormal. Very Gradgrind, really. And that very much ties into the other stereotype, that science is a list of Facts that are True because they're handed down from on high and not to be contradicted. Which basically makes science hard to distinguish from dogmatism. So I rather like Ridley's: Science is not a catalogue of facts, but a search for new mysteries, and Maynard's paraphrase of Popper: Erecting hypotheses that can be falsified, and designing experiments capable of doing so, is the hallmark of the true scientist.

Perhaps a similar exercise is [ profile] misia asking What's your definition of "having sex"?. She gets some very interesting and provocative answers. It seems to me that in some contexts at least it's a fairly important question, and certainly it's a word that pretty much everyone needs to use conversationally some of the time, and there's really very little consensus on it.

So, anyone want to try a soundbite short definition of either science or sex? Or both, if you're feeling ambitious. It's something to ponder, anyway.
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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