Sunday, March 9, 2008

Science and science prodigies

Science now turns off so many people that Philadelphia's nearly 200-year-old Franklin Institute Science Museum has shortened its name to The Franklin--treating science like the grease that, accordingly to urban legend, KFC has tried to hide behind its own recent name abbreviation.  

As today's Philadelphia Inquirer notes, with 3D movies about U2, a crew of storm troopers that hawks the current Star Wars exhibit, and recent exhibits on King Tut and the Titanic, The Franklin's box office goals have it focusing less and less on science.  To today's visitors, it seems, almost any other subject is preferable.

So it's refreshing to see an article in today's New York Times profiling a high school "science prodigy," and observing that more and more schools across the region are trying to cultivate star science students.  Key to these students' success, reporter Joseph Berger observes, are teachers who recognize their talents.  

And key to recognizing scientific talent, I must add, is looking beyond the science fair poster to the science that hides behind it.  Many budding scientists lag in their organizational, communication, and graphic-arts skills, and today's interdisciplinary project-oriented priorities too often let these factors trump meticulous analysis and rigorous experimental design.

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