May 14, 2013 | 2
Science communication has seldom had a better champion than Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield who just returned to Earth last night.
Astronauts tweeting and talking from space is not a new phenomena, and though interesting scientific experiments abound way up on the ISS, they weren’t what caught the public’s imagination this go round.
It was imagery.
Imagery lending power to children’s questions, imagery inspiring people day after day about our shared home, all with Cmdr Hadfield’s excited and accessible nature sharing his experiences. He knew when to be quiet and let wonderful things appear, and when to lend his voice.
NASA has understood the power of imagery – still photos, animations, illustrations and video – for a long time. Engagement, real wonder and curiosity often comes from appealing to our dominant senses. And now, with the extremely visual nature of social media, with the ability to carry the internet in our pocket, we have the most powerful visual communication medium the world has ever known. Sure, not all scientific stories have the advantage of hurtling around the Earth in space: but the next time you’re writing your science blog, preparing to do some outreach, ask yourself if your finely crafted words don’t deserve some stunning and provocative visuals. There’s plenty of places to find them, or ways to make your own.
On a personal note, to NASA and Commander Hadfield, thank you for the look in my 2 year old son’s eyes when he tried to sing along to Space Oddity last night (and made up some lyrics about helmets and big giant Jupiter). That look in his eyes, that’s what science communication should do.