Roundup: Communicating Science

Three loosely-related links about science communication:

Jeff Masters’ (Wunder Blog) synopsis of flood control along the Mississippi is fascinating, and perfectly illustrated by the diagram below, one of the best scientific illustrations I’ve yet seen.  It’s a typical “before-and-after” two-part figure, but each is so detailed, and so fundamentally different in world-view, that it conveys the message far better than words.

Figure 1. Two views of the Mississippi River. Left: the meander paths of the Mississippi over time, as published in “Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River” (Fisk, 1944). Right: The Army Corps of Engineers’ view of Mississippi River peak flow rates during a maximum 1-in-500 year “Project Flood” (U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, 1958.) The places outlined in red are where the Corps has built flood control structures capable of diverting a portion of the Mississippi’s flow.

Second, I’m calling out the CDC’s “How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse” (yes, the Centers for Disease Control) as an example of conveying important (but boring) information, in this case disaster preparedness, in a humorous and novel way.  It’s also an interesting example of a government agency experimenting with social media.  Here’s another: the VA has hired one of its harshest critics to blog from the inside.

Third, speaking of talking science via social media (and a shameless plug), I’m giving a short talk Tuesday night (May 24) in NYC at the TED Full Spectrum auditions.  It’s an audition for a longer talk at TED2012.  I’ll talk about why space telescopes are one of humanity’s coolest inventions.  It’ll be livestreamed; I’ll update with the link.


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