S Cat 2By Claire

Today (in the USA, or yesterday in Australia – the 12th August) is Schrödinger’s birthday!

Now, I realise that Schrödinger worked in the field of quantum mechanics, and therefore not earth sciences, but, Schrödinger’s work is a great example of effective science communication.

Schrödinger is best known for his cat, that is, a theoretical cat that he either kills or doesn’t kill (anyone worried about Schrödinger’s cat shouldn’t be – it was a theoretical experiment. No cats were harmed in the making of this science). 

Scrodinger’s cat is actually quite a complicated scientific concept, however, thanks to various sources (my favourite being The Big Bang Theory), many people have at least a basic understanding of what this experiment entails.

Minutephysics (a really great YouTube channel that explains complicated scientific questions simply – go and check it out!) explains the concept really well.

Or if you prefer Sheldon’s explanation to Penny from The Big Bang Theory (the actual science doesn’t cut in until 2:40, but Sheldon’s process of finding a seat in Penny’s apartment is also pretty entertaining).

Now, you may not have come across the Minutephysics video before, but I’d guess that a large number of people have come across Sheldon’s explanation from The Big Bang Theory (the show has 26.4 million likes on Facebook, which gives an indication of the number of people who watch the show).

One thing that came across from the social media panel at ANU last Friday night that I went to (and we’ll have a write up of what went on shortly), is that science communication is best done alongside entertainment. Now, I can guarantee that not everyone who watches the Big Bang Theory is a physicist (actually, I’d guess most people aren’t), but audiences are constantly being “incidentally educated” by the characters in the show. Not only do audiences know about Schrödinger’s Cat, the CERN Supercollider and the Mars Rover, amongst many others, they know it without even realising it!

Science communication doesn’t need to be academic and doesn’t need to involve lectures. In fact, in my opinion at least, the most effective forms of science communication seem to involve Facebook, and YouTube and sitcoms and blogs.

So Happy Birthday Schrödinger, and thanks for providing us with a source of hours of entertainment… and education.