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ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Matthew Francis

更新时间:2012-08-29    来源/发布:www.en369.cn    作者/编辑:英语作文网

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself?

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I’m a physicist, freelance science writer, former college professor, ex-planetarium director, and wearer of jaunty hats. (And yes, that’s part of my standard biography.) I hold a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from Rutgers University, and my undergraduate degree is from Central College, a small liberal arts college in Iowa. While I majored in physics, my minors were in math and English.

Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?

As you can tell from the “former” and “ex-” in the paragraph above, my career has followed an unpredictable trajectory. I fully expected to retire from teaching at a college, but when my university faced serious financial troubles, they decided to eliminate the physics department. However, I’ve always loved writing, so I decided to see if losing my job could be turned into an opportunity. In my last year of teaching, I began a blog, “Galileo’s Pendulum“, and in the last six months started writing a book. I am also contributing physics editor for “Double X Science“, a blog aimed at providing good science content for and about women.

“Galileo’s Pendulum” covers a variety of topics in physics, astronomy, and related fields, mostly for non-scientists. I try to mix some lessons about how science works in practice into my writing as much as possible, since it’s an area of common misconceptions. In particular, as a theoretical physicist, I try to emphasize the importance of evidence in all aspects of science, since it’s too commonly assumed that coming up with “theories” is a matter of sitting alone in a room and thinking hard. Real science is far messier and more glorious than that – and there’s romance even in the messiness.

A similar theme plays in my book-in-progress, which is tentatively titled Back Roads, Dark Skies: a Cosmological Journey. For this book, I am traveling to various observatories and labs across the United States where the real work of cosmology is done, meeting scientists and viewing the equipment they use. Cosmology is big science: many projects involve hundreds of researchers, and the ways they go about learning about the Universe are as important as their discoveries. After all, the most important question one can ask in science is, “How do we know?”

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

I still think of myself as an educator even now, though I’m no longer in the college classroom. I want to share the wonder of physics to those who think of it as something beyond them, or even something to fear. In this era when the very goals of education are being challenged (at least for the children of poor and working-class families), it seems more important than ever to stress the importance of science, not just in daily lives, but in our intellectual structure. Science can be a source of joy and wonder for everyone, whether they are scientists or not.

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