Raising the Bar on Sci/Tech Communication

Scientists and engineers often find it challenging to explain their work to non-experts. That’s why there are magazines like Spectrum—we take on the task of making the complex clear.

But some technical folks embrace the challenge—in recent years we’ve seen CERN staffer Kate McAlpine rap her way around the Large Hadron Collider, geek rapper Rajeev Bajaj explain semiconductors, and EE Salman Kahn create a booming nonprofit company to distribute video explanations of the basic principals of physics, math, and other fields.

These great communicators of science and technology often go unrecognized. But this year, the Commonwealth Club of California, a nonprofit public forum founded in 1903, set out to change that, at least in the area of climate science communication. They established the “Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication.” (Schneider, a former professor at Stanford University, was an early advocate of reducing carbon emissions to combat global warming.)

And earlier this week, the Commonwealth Club announced the first winner—Richard B. Alley, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University. Alley is the host of “Earth: The Operators’ Manual”, a PBS documentary and the author of several books. His research focuses on predicting sea level changes from climate change. And he’s put several lessons on geoscience to music, above, his take on the history of the earth, to the tune of Billy Joel’s Piano Man.

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