Science Week: The shock of the new

What in your opinion was the best invention of 2007?

And now, the end is near.

This week, I’ve been answering questions set as part of a competition run by Science Week (and publicised by Damien) about technology. I’ve mostly taken a lo-fi approach with my answers (perhaps excepting my wish to own an internet radio). This reflects the fact that unlike many of the other entrants, I have almost no scientific knowledge past Leaving Certificate Biology and certainly am not exposed to novel science as part of my work.

Technology and science is mostly of interest to me in a very practical way- how will this effect my life? And the technology and science I do make a slight effort to keep up with is either as basic a Thursday’s Treasury Tag, or as intuitively satisfying as having access to all the radio stations in the world by my bed.

As this is the last posting in this unusually prolific burst from me, it is worth reflecting on what this Science Week lark has provoked me to think about. I suspect that it may not have been what the organisers expected.

(As an aside the Science Week organisers have been the ghosts in the machine in this whole playpen. We’ve never heard from them directly. They haven’t commented or responded to any of the posts. And they don’t seem to have their own blog to talk about what they’ve liked or disliked about people’s efforts. If we didn’t know him better, one might hold a momentary suspicion that Damien had pulled off one of the more spectacular blog hoaxes in many a moon.)

Certainly, scientifically informed people have written about some interesting inventions. (Functionalized Nanoporous Thin Films is good for testing water, I have learned). But this is the first I have heard about many of them. I confess that science reporting (as opposed to reporting on new gadgets) in the main wouldn’t be the first section in a newspaper I’d rush to read. But on the other hand, I do enjoy the Bad Science Column in the Guardian (and its accompanying blog).

So perhaps the efforts of Science week should extend to helping scientists to talk to the public in an engaging way for the rest of the year.

Finally, to answer the question. Originally, I intended to say that I didn’t know what the best invention of 2007 was. However, I have since realised that this year did see a creation which, although based on existing material certainly counts as something novel. So I’m going to nominate my new son, who, for me, represents an endless series of discoveries.

And, like all the best gadgets, a future of expensive accessories.


  • […] Simon says his son. Best answer ever. Digg it! | Reddit | | Stumble Upon | Google […]

  • Daragh O Brien says:

    As he is a combination of two existing technologies to create something novel surely he’s a mashup rather than an invention?

    All joking aside, that answer deserves the Wii. Monkey butlers be damned.

  • Justin says:

    ‘So perhaps the efforts of Science week should extend to helping scientists to talk to the public in an engaging way for the rest of the year.’

    As a matter of interest — why should they dumb themselves down to catch your interest? shouldn’t you, instead, raise your game?

    I recommend a subscription to New Scientist — fascinating science journalism, weekly.

  • Simon McGarr says:

    I suppose the question is whether they want to interest people in science who would not normally be caught by the New Scientist.

    The fact of Science week suggests that is an aim.

    Then the question is whether writing about a subject in a way that is engaging and clear to a particular audience is nessecarily dumbing down. I think that I can write about arcane legal matters in a different, but equally valid way, if I am talking to other lawyers or to the general public.

  • […] isn’t a popular notion, I recognise. Justin Mason, on the last occasion I proposed this idea asked why I thought that scientists talking to the general public about science ought to dumb themselves down […]

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