A 2011 Nobel laureate (Dan Shechtman) having a good time. [Image Credit: Nobel Media]
Well, now that the Nobel Prizes in science have been awarded, I think it might be time for a quick little reality check. Does anyone (aside from news outlets and the scientists who win or lose) really care? And whose job is it to make sure that we do?
This is forever our problem. We, as science writers, know that these things matter, and we desperately want the general public to care as much as we do. But honestly, they don’t. So what do you do? How do you make science sexy? For one, I say stop trying to be “first.” Everyone and their mother is going to cover the awards, so why not take a few hours and try to really get the story right? Look, I get it. You want to be first. You want to report on this “brand new” science before anyone else, but really, if you step back for a minute, is that totally necessary? Sure, it takes more time and effort to create a story someone will actually want to read, particularly about an event, but isn’t it worth the pain if what you’re reporting could actually effect change in the world?
To the Nobel Committee — help us help you. Make it FUN! This is basically the Oscars of the scientific world, but instead of giving out awards for “best animated short,” you’re actually giving more than a million dollars to groups of scientists discovering brand new ways to combine matter. I’m not saying that you should hire Anne Hathaway and James Franco to host (no one should ever do that), but who knows! Maybe Steve Martin is a science fanatic. We all know that Bill Nye would be awesome at hosting something like that, and hey, he’s probably available.
I’m not advocating that the Nobel Prizes should be sensationalized, but adding a little fun to an otherwise stuffy event never hurt anyone. It might be worth it to just try to make it exciting because this stuff is really cool! Just this year, awards were given for new discoveries in quantum mechanics, stem cell research and G protein coupled receptors. Instead of those being the huge news stories of the week, however, more time was given to Amanda Bynes than all those discoveries combined. I get that it’s entertaining and voyeuristic, but shouldn’t we aim higher?
*Answer: Eh, probably not. But a girl can dream.