To the uninitiated, scientific concepts might seem obscure and arcane, and schools more often than not go about things the wrong way, presenting science and scientists as the ones with all the answers, without the joy of discovery and making mistakes to find a solution.
An Argentinian mathematics professor, a journalist and a popularizer of mathematics Adrián Paenza rightly observes that knowledge is power that allows people in a privileged position (better educated, with more knowledge) to have power over others. Therefore, to address this unjust imbalance, knowledge needs to be shared or, as he puts it, "socialized." That's where talented science communicators or popularizers come in. They can help make sense of the most complicated things, inspire their audience without patronising it, and even transform people's lives, showing that science can be both enlightening and fun.
Today, we'll tell you about some of the greatest science popularizers of all time worth watching or listening to for the pure joy of learning:
Key quote: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”
Astronomer, educator and author Carl Sagan is rightfully considered one of the world's greatest popularizers of science. He inspired a whole generation of scientists with his poetic explanations and head-spinning explorations of the universe and its hidden mysteries. He's most famous for his TV series Cosmos (1980), the Emmy Award and Peabody Award-winning show that became the most-watched series in public television history. The accompanying book, "Cosmos" (1980), was on the New York Times bestseller list for 70 weeks and was the best-selling science book ever published in English.
Must watch: Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980)
Key quote: “The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.”
Michio Kaku is a professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center. He's also a futurist, bestselling author, and a great popularizer of theoretical physics who can eloquently articulate the most complex ideas in a clear, comprehensible way. Also, his predictions make you want to jump into a time machine to travel to the future as soon as possible. In 2021, he received the Sir Arthur Clarke Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions both as a scientist and a science popularizer.
Key quote: “My optimism and confidence come not from feeling I'm luckier than other mortals, and they sure don't come from visualizing victory. They're the result of a lifetime spent visualizing defeat and figuring out how to prevent it. Like most astronauts, I'm pretty sure that I can deal with what life throws at me because I've thought about what to do if things go wrong, as well as right. That's the power of negative thinking.”
Chris Hadfield is a Canadian retired astronaut, engineer, fighter pilot, musician, and writer. He has flown two Space Shuttle missions and also served as commander of the International Space Station. He's recognized as a successful popularizer of space exploration, a skilful storyteller who created countless videos about life in space. Also, his super cool rendition of David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” has 52 million views on YouTube.
Must watch: Top 5 Space Experiments (YouTube), V.O. Complete. A spaceman’s guide to life on earth. Chris Hadfield, astronaut (YouTube)