Editor’s note: Communicating about science can be perceived as a life-or-death issue in some cases, or as hype and stereotype in others. In this conversation, scientists Sean Carroll and Dave Goldberg — dedicated to bringing “physics to the people” — share their thoughts on why they do (and how to talk about) what they do: Should physicists seem more like Tony Stark? Should they buzzkill people’s hopes for time travel, warp drives, and other speculative (but very appealing) scenarios? Carroll and Goldberg also discuss the popular and controversial topics of string theory, supersymmetry, the multiverse, and the Higgs boson — and whether we need to justify basic science with technology breakthroughs like the World Wide Web.
Dave Goldberg: We’re both in the business of turning groundbreaking discoveries in physics into something digestible for the public.
But why — besides showing off? Are we trying to atone for the stereotypes that come from The Big Bang Theory, or the simple hope that people see physicists as more Tony Stark and less Bruce Banner? Put another way, what does the public really need to know about what’s going on in the frontiers of science, and what should we tell them?
Sean Carroll: Scientists certainly have selfish reasons to reach out to the broader public — for their personal interests, and even more for the good of the field.
But in areas of “pure” research like my own (cosmology and particle physics), there’s a more important concern: The whole point of doing that kind of science is to learn cool new things about the world, which is pointless if we then don’t tell anybody what we’ve learned.
One can argue whether speculative, unproven science should be discussed publicly. I think so, as even the public should understand that science is an ongoing process, not a set of simple answers.
Written By: Dave Goldberg and Sean Carrollcontinue to source article at wired.com