Watching Stargazing Live last night, I was enthralled, and reminded of why I got into science in the first place. The science that they were talking about was cool.
The great thing about astronomy is that it is huge, endless, exciting, available, and, in itself, absolutely useless. I’m not talking about whether you get spinoffs, and better technology through studying astronomy (of course you do), but that the primary reason for doing astronomy is to find out how the universe works, and nothing more.
As a television programme, stargazing live will probably inspire a generation of young scientists to go and do physics, or maths, or whatever. I think we in climate science could learn a lot from the approach that they take: the science, for the sake of the science, is cool.
A few years ago, while finishing my PhD in Sheffield, I was at a party at a friends house. I met a group of people in the corner, and we got chatting: they soon asked me what I did. “I’m training to be a climate scientist” I said, and told them about my research. I immediately got sympathy “that must be a really tough job” said one girl, “to get up every day, and study how we are messing up our world. How do you cope?”
I explained that I was looking at computer models a lot of the time, and doing stats, and that it was quite abstract really and so on, but I continued to get sympathy for my “tough job”.
So eventually, I asked the group what they did. They were all junior doctors. Specialising in Accident & Emergency. In Sheffield
Climate science has been linked for so long in the mind of the public with impending disaster, endless failed negotiations, and being asked to give up fun things, that they might have forgotten that learning how the Earth works is cool.