Science

How to create a new generation of scientists.

Picture Career Day at Anytown Elementary School. A nervous man in a lab coat stands at the front of a hostile 8th grade class.

“I’m a scientist,” he explains. “I do research at a big university using the same kind of knowledge you guys are learning in Mrs. Peterson’s science class. Maybe one day some of you will be scientists, too. Does anyone here know they want to be a scientist?”

There is an uncomfortable silence as the 13-year olds glance at one another. The floor is opened for questions. Eventually, one young girl raises her hand if only to relieve the awkwardness.

“What kind of equipment do you use?”

“Good question,” he says with not a small amount of false cheer. “In my current research, I’m using thermographic cameras that detect radiation based on temperature. It’s just like night vision goggles.”

There is a murmur as some heads perk up — the kids have heard of night vision goggles and know that they are used by military personnel and James Bond to kill things. This is good.

“What are you researching?” asks another student.

He clears his throat. “Well, currently my team is studying some of the differences between men and women. Uh, yes, you in the back?”

“What kind of differences?”

He pauses. “Differences in, uh, differences in the way that men and women’s body temperatures react to, uh, certain stimuli.” The students note that the man’s face has turned a vibrant shade of maroon.

“So you watch the men and women get hotter with the night vision goggles?”

“It’s a camera, technically, and . . . yes, yes we do.”

“What are they doing while you watch them?”

The man looks to the teacher for help, but recalls that she took advantage of today’s talk to step out for a coffee and cigarrette. “Well, they’re, uh, they’re watching movies actually.”

“What kind of movies?”

“Um, a lot of different movies . . . ”

“Why would people get hotter while watching movies?”

The man silently wills the teacher to return to the room using the hidden power of his mind, but to no avail. He is cornered and alone.

“Well, some of the movies . . . some of the movies are dirty.” He finishes his sentence quietly and apologetically.

After a brief, stunned silence, a boy in the back row excitedly summarizes the preceding information: “You spy on people with night vision goggles while they watch dirty movies?”

“That’s not, that’s not exactly what I do, no, you see it’s a camera . . . ”

“How can I get a job like that?” the boy shouts. The man scans the room to see the rest of the students nodding their heads enthusiastically, waiting for an answer.

The man clears his throat. “Study hard, kids. Study hard.”

Applause.

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According to researchers at McGill University in Montreal, men and women take approximately the same amount of time to reach peak arousal (found via Pure Pedantry). Please help further this research by purchasing one Skepchick and one Skepdude 2007 Calendar. Share with a member of the opposite sex. Record your results and send them to me. With photographic evidence, please.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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7 Comments

  1. Hi Rebecca, great blog :) you know this bit reminded me that desk I sat at in physics class for years and years in school had the following scratched into it by some bored teenager..

    Physics is like an erection. The more you think about it the harder it gets.

    It amused me. And before you judge, I was 16 at the time. And in physics class.

  2. Reminds me of a science class I taught years ago in a middle school in North Philly. We were working on biology, but no one paid any attention until I started to show them (using our classroom skeleton) where the major nerve points, blood vessels, and most fragile bones could be found.

    –Well, at least I taught them something relevant and useful to their daily lives.

  3. I'm reminded somehow of High School physics class. We honor students had placed a sign above the door which read "Friction is F=uN, but frequency Hertz". At the time I thought it was very cool that our teacher allowed us the creative freedom to express our adolescent preoccupation with sex in the language of science; a show of pedagogical virtue that would later be tainted by the revelation that he had been running a nudey camp for underage boys in a rural quarry owned by his family. I'm sure there's a tie-in there somewhere with your story, at least inasmuch as they both deal with the roles of science and perversity in education.

  4. OK, I did as asked. I ordered a Skepdude calendar. However, I'm not sure that I will be able to obtain much in the way of feedback. I work in one of my company's field offices with a very small staff, who are essentially all pretty much small-town provincial fundamentalists. Nice people, though.

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