More Fun Than Fun: Scientists Must Write for the People

French entomologist and belletrist Jean-Henri Fabre (1820-1910), whom Charles Darwin called the ‘Homer of entomology’. Photo: Public domain

My former student Anindita Bhadra recently invited me to speak to the participants (MSc and PhD students) of a workshop on science communication that she had organised under the auspices of Cogito 137, a multilingual web-based science communication platform hosted on the IISER Kolkata web domain. I am no expert on the theory and practice of science communication (many experts spoke during the workshop) but I agreed to speak because I have one point to make.

Today, we see an increasing division of labour between scientists who are content with producing knowledge and science writers who are content with communicating this knowledge to a broad audience. We justify this separation as inevitable because science has become so complicated that scientists have neither the time nor the skill required to speak to

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Could Newsom’s fun and games backfire?

The images coming out of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent public events have been, to say the least, surreal — and could pose a political liability for the governor, who must balance buoying Californians’ spirits with acknowledging the ongoing harm of the pandemic as he fends off an almost-certain recall election.

On Wednesday, Newsom rode a roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain to promote the latest prize in the state’s vaccine lottery: 50,000 free tickets to the amusement park. On Tuesday, he drew $15 million worth of prizes to mark California’s grand reopening while surrounded by Minions, Smurfs and Transformers at Universal Studios Hollywood — and then made an appearance on the Late Late Show with James Corden. Three times in two weeks, he’s acted as a game show host, juggling lottery balls in front of a Wheel of Fortune setup.

The carnivalesque atmosphere of Newsom’s recent appearances

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Warren stalls Biden’s higher education pick over student loan policies

Warren and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have been publicly lobbying Biden for months to use executive action to wipe out $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower. Biden has been dismissive of that idea, though the White House has said it’s still reviewing its options.

But Warren’s hold on the Kvaal nomination is not over the $50,000 student debt cancellation proposal, according to the source. Instead, Warren is seeking concessions on longstanding issues that she’s raised about how the Education Department runs the student loan program.

Warren’s staff is negotiating with the Biden administration about a “range of necessary reforms in higher education including the administration of the student loan program,” the source said.

Earlier this year, Warren called on the Education Department to fire two of the largest companies it hires to collect student loans — Navient and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency — over what she

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Summer books of 2021: Science fiction

The Stranger Times
by CK McDonnell, Bantam Press £14.99

If The X-Files was a weekly tabloid, it would be The Stranger Times. The Manchester-based periodical gains a new assistant editor, Hannah, who swiftly learns that the paranormal is real, and can be deadly. McDonnell exploits this premise for laughs, and the pithy banter between the characters is a delight.

Last One at the Party
by Bethany Clift, Hodder and Stoughton £12.99

Sole survivor of a lethal flu-like pandemic, Clift’s self-loathing anti-heroine indulges herself in every way, before the need to take her predicament seriously kicks in. The novel expertly walks the line between profane and thoughtful, and is as much about the why of surviving as it is about the how.

The Best of World SF
edited by Lavie Tidhar, Head of Zeus £25

Tidhar has assembled a weighty and impressive collection of 26 stories by authors from around the

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