Science is for everyone
Compiled by Chris Lau
The Hong Kong leg of the global competition, FameLab, will hold its final round on Saturday at the Science Museum. Only one of the seven finalists will win the chance to represent the city to talk about science in Britain under the Science Alive programme, co-organised by the British Council. Our junior reporters, Tam Sum-sze and Winnie Lee Wing-yee, got a sneak peek at their preparations.
Inside the freshly refurbished Theatre Noir studios, a group of seven young people mingled animatedly, discussing topics ranging from green tea and nuclear radiation to fashion and the lifting force of an aircraft.
The group consisted of mostly science and engineering students. They attended this master class to learn how to perfect their presentations in the FameLab final.
To kick-start the day, William Yip, founder and artistic director of Theatre Noir, loosened up the participants with lively icebreakers and confidence-boosting drills.
He then asked an inspiring question: what is the actual purpose of 'talking science' to the public?
The rest of the session was devoted to discussing the concept of science, led by Malcolm Love, a former BBC journalist and now trainer of communication skills.
Love sought to dispel the myth about scientists promoted by the media. Television and film characters from Lost in Space, Doctor Who, Star Trek and Back to the Future were good examples that showed how the media portrayed scientists as madmen and God-wannabes.
The problem is that some mainstream media give only a one-sided view of science and fail to inform people how much more there is to know about science.
A good knowledge of science is definitely beneficial. One of the FameLabers pointed out, for example, that people could stay healthy by understanding the nutritional values of food.
Another finalist said an understanding of the hazards of nuclear radiation could increase sympathy towards Japanese earthquake victims and minimise chances of radiation exposure.
The development of science helps maintain the economy, makes people accountable for their actions and paves the way for a bright future.
This is perhaps what FameLab intends to do: instil a positive mindset in science students across the globe that science is not only essential, but can be appealing, and to banish unproven, negative stereotypes. These FameLab finalists will tell the world something different.
Winnie Lee Wing-yee
Malcolm Love used a metaphor to illustrate how budding scientists could face journalists.
'Answer questions as if you were playing tennis,' he said.
Scientists should prepare well for journalists' questions, he suggested. They should 'grab' a question tight like a tennis ball and hit the ball to wherever they wanted it to be.
The metaphor means scientists should not panic in an interview; they should be calm and explain their views.
Love said scientists could co-operate with journalists to convey their messages to the public. Journalists can then spread the scientific way of thinking worldwide, and eliminate superstitious beliefs through scientific reasoning.
Finalist Julie Li Qiao, a textile engineering student at Shanghai University who is on an exchange programme at Polytechnic University, is interested in wearable electronics such as watches. She hoped to improve her communication and problem-solving skills through FameLab.
Another contestant, Winnie Chau Wing-yee from the University of Science and Technology, is preparing a presentation on the anti-oxidation qualities of green tea. She hopes the competition would equip her for a teaching career.