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Having fun, writing about the stuff I like

Indie Science

Oscar Foulkes March 11, 2014 Uncategorized No comments
I feel very privileged to have been able to attend Adam Savage’s SXSW keynote address – The Maker Age: Enlightened Views On Science & Art.

Far from being a formally qualified scientist, he describes himself as a “serial dilettante”. He is on a mission to make science more accessible. Actually, it’s more about the scientific method – ask a question, make a hypothesis, test it – than it is about atoms or equations. It’s about a way of thinking.

Up front, he made the assertion that art and science are not opposites. Not only are they necessary companions, they are twin story telling channels.

To rapturous applause he expressed the wish that schools would one day have as many science fairs as they have sports matches. He didn’t let sport off the hook, though, because there is a pile of science in sport that ‘jocks’ appear to be quite happy to process.

He used the example of Berkeley parking metres that ran out of time before they were supposed to. It was a widely known problem, but the city was not willing to spend the quoted hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultants to check it out. So, 11-year-old Ellie Lammer went out with

a stopwatch and a pocketful of nickels to check it out as her science fair project. Her findings inspired a piece of legislation that became known as Lammer’s Law.

This element tied in with a panel discussion that I went to a couple of days before: The Indie Science Revolution. One of the panellists, Jacob Shiach, made the point that one does not need to be doing ‘big science’. There are millions of curious people around the world testing things all the time.

Savage also spoke about failure, which he sees as being a key requirement for science. Essentially, pushing things beyond limits causes them to fail, which enables one to work out what those limits are. Failure as a route to learning had also been a theme of a presentation on the power of failure I had been to earlier in the day.

The Indie Science Revolution panellists made the point that scientific research has been government funded for a very small part of the thousands of years that humans have been asking questions.

I came to SXSW to be stimulated and inspired. Thank you, Adam Savage, for doing just that!

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