Science for the People: Impossible Space

sftpThis week Science for the People is exploring the limits of science exploration in both fictional and fact. We’re joined by “lifelong space nerd” Andy Weir, to talk about his debut novel The Martian (and soon to be film, trailer below), that pits human invenitveness and ingenuity against the unforgiving environment of the red planet. And astrophysicist and science blogger Ethan Siegel returns to explore so-called “impossible space engines“, and what news stories about them can teach us about journalism and science literacy.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

STEM Flame War!

Image courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory
Image courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory

It’s not often that you find a number of online comments on a scientific journal’s website. It’s even rarer to discover something that is bordering on a scientist flame war (complete with requests for evidence!). Colin Macilwain asserts in a recent editorial in Nature that he thinks programs to encourage STEM education are a spectacular waste of money. Now this particular stance is already going to incite some backlash. He says that all the overlapping programs are wasting money and that making more scientists will just depress wages by flooding the market.

What ensues in the comments section is a debate over whether increasing scientific literacy for all is important in today’s society and whether there is truly a shortage of qualified scientists to fill open positions. I was excited to see so many scientists engaged in discussion of STEM policy and with well articulated opinions on the subject. Not everyone agrees on the ultimate goal of STEM education, whether it be to raise the level of science literacy universally or to increase the number of students who go on to careers in science. As it is, there is a glut of biologists who are struggling to find employment, though I think fields like computer science may not be experiencing the same problems. I personally, don’t agree with Macilwain, but I think more scientists should be thinking about science and society and participating in the discussion. Science literacy for all!

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