In a story this week entitled "Geek Chic: A Scientific Renaissance," ABC news claims that, after decades of marginalization, scientists are once again shining in the public spotlight.
Science club popularity may indicate little beyond the fact that real science--as opposed to that taught in many grade schools--continues to be popular with those who like science, and that the Internet has made it easier to organize clubs like Dorkbot, which brings together about 100 people per month to various cities to do "strange things with electricity."
Like the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, which recently dropped "science" from its name, the assumption throughout is that one can only attract people to science by making science less scientific: diluting it with dance, cinema, and cheap thrills.
But as even Greene, one of the organizers of the World Science Festival, notes, "it's a big mistake when one underestimates what kids can take on board."
While best-seller Kaku insists that "We scientists have to blame ourselves for not engaging the people about our work," I can't help wondering whether we might attract more people to science not by changing science, but by teaching it properly. Instead of The Lorax, how about tree physiology and photosynthesis; instead of time travel, special relativity; instead of ecologically-friendly lifestyles, ecology.
Then, just possibly, we'll interest more students in actual science, and better prepare them for the college-level courses that deter too many people, not because they aren't interested, but because they are so poorly prepared.