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Why we must reinvigorate our interest in science -- and how DJ Scientific could help us

December 27, 2010 | 10:44 am

NASA

Why did we lose interest in science, and how can we get it back?

In an Op-Ed article from Sunday's pages, Meryl Comer, president of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer's Initiative, and Chris Mooney, coauthor of "Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future," argue that we ought to reinvigorate an interest in science for the sake of our economy. They offer several examples that directly tie science to the economy, including:

Consider the economic reverberations of dramatically increasing the capacity of the microchip. As the academy unforgettably put it: "It enabled entrepreneurs to replace tape recorders with iPods, maps with GPS, pay phones with cellphones, two-dimensional X-rays with three-dimensional CT scans, paperbacks with electronic books, slide rules with computers, and much, much more."

They argue that the U.S. government should step up and honor our scientists.

It's dramatic testimony to the economic power of scientific advances. And yet over the four decades from 1964 to 2004, our government's support of science declined 60% as a portion of GDP. Meanwhile, other countries aren't holding back: China is now the world leader in investing in clean energy, which will surely be one of the industries of the future. Overall, China invested $34.6 billion in the sector in 2009; the U.S. invested $18.6 billion.

And they point to a quote from Charles Darwin's great-great grandson, Matthew Chapman.

Instead of being derided as geeks or nerds, scientists should be seen as courageous realists and the last great heroic explorers of the unknown. They should get more money, more publicity, better clothes, more sex and free rehab when the fame goes to their heads.

DJ Scientific (née Marc Branch) would seem to agree, but he takes it one step further -- from what should be to how we get there.

By day, he's an aerospace engineer at NASA. By night, he's a DJ with a message: "If we're trying to reach that next generation of explorers, you have to speak their language. A lot of people haven't heard of Leland Melvin, astronaut, but they've heard of Mary J. Blige," he said on a recent episode of the radio program "Studio 360."

His efforts now extend beyond the nightclub as well. As part of NASA's outreach work, he's developing a youth program to help kids embrace education. "It's science, technology and engineering awareness and literacy through hip-hop," he said.

But what might really attract kids to math and science, he concedes, is if Melvin were to do a duet with Blige -- to quite literally intertwine science with pop culture for maximum effect.

Listen to the program here:

RELATED:

Fixing the economy the scientific way

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: The space shuttle Discovery arrives Wednesday at the Vehicle Assembly Building after making a overnight trek from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Red Huber /Orlando Sentinel / MCT

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