Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

“The Scientist as Educator and Public Citizen: Linus Pauling and His Era.”

October 29 - 30, 2007

Video: Session Chair, "Popular and Public Science” Cliff Mead

8:01 - Abstract | Biography | More Videos from Session 2: Popular and Public Science


Cliff Mead: Well good afternoon everybody and welcome to the second session of “The Scientist as Educator and Public Citizen: Linus Pauling and His Era.” This morning we had a very entertaining and informative session chaired by Mary Jo Nye on "Scientists and Textbooks" and tomorrow will be the third of the three part conference that begins at nine o’clock and involves the "Scientist as Public Citizen," and Chris Petersen will be chairing that. My name is Cliff Mead I am the head of Special Collections at Oregon State University, home of the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers. I want to remind those people who were here this morning, and for those people who are new to us this afternoon, that the clock on the wall is approximately five minutes fast and after each speaker gives his presentation there will be about a five minute discussion in which questions will be allowed. [1:02]

The theme of this second session is "Popular and Public Science". Popular science would be the interpretation of science intended for a general audience rather than the experts, and as a bridge between scientific literature, that is the professional medium of scientific research and the realm of popular political and cultural discourse, popular science shows some of the purposes of both, but in many ways it is distinct from either. Our speakers this afternoon will hopefully demonstrate the difference between popular public science and professional science. Bassam Shakhashiri has some wonderful experiments to show you which enable scientists to bond with the public. Robert Anderson will take us back in time to 1951 and he will show us how science was presented to the British public at that time. [2:04]

Steve Lyons will explain why of all the sciences chemistry seems to be the one most neglected by the media when doing presentations on popular science. Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent’s paper will explore the values and ethical attitudes that Pauling attached to chemistry through his textbook College Chemistry written in 1950. Unfortunately, Bernadette was not able to make it to this conference because of the airline strike in France so Mary Jo Nye, a good friend of Bernadette’s, has graciously agreed to read her paper, so we will not be deprived of that. And finally, Nobel Laureate Dudley Herschbach will talk about how the great impact that Linus Pauling had in chemistry and the peace movement was greatly enhanced by his flair as a speaker and writer. Before we begin the sessions today, I would like to show you one very short example of what I consider an exemplar of popular science. [3:26]

[Video begins]

Male: Tell me what’s in the box.

Female: How can I do that? The lid is on.

Male: Well how do you think?

Female: Can I pick it up?

Male: You can do anything you want to it except open it.

[new scene with Linus Pauling]

Linus Pauling: I’ve been told that there’s some geometric shapes objects, wooden blocks of some kind here.

Male: There’s only one.

Linus Pauling: One. [item rolling around in box] I think that it is something approximating a cylinder with its long axis this way because it rolls [item rolling in box] this way and doesn’t roll this way [item rolling in box]. Well, there, I’ve got it to roll that way or at least to move. [item rolling in box] Sounds about the same there as though one end were the same as the other end. [item rolling in box] It doesn’t slide, it’s a cardboard box [item rolling on box] it didn’t roll so its not, doesn’t have a cylindrical or circular cross section, its not a plain, just a cylinder. And [item rolling on box] it sounds as it goes along as though it would have a polygonal cross section. That means a rectangle or a pentagon or a hexagon or something like that. There it slid. It slid. [item moving in box] now I’ve turned, rotated though 90 degrees so, [item moving in box] now I’ll, it started to rotate at this angle so it doesn’t have a square cross section it might be have a hexagonal cross section. [item rolling in box] I don’t think it has a hexagonal cross section it might have an octagonal cross section or perhaps a nonnagonal or heptagonal as it could have cross sections seven, eight or nine sides [item rolls in box]. If this were sophisticated I’d say seven or nine but its probably unsophisticated enough to be eight [item rolling in box]. I think that’s the end, it, it’s a hectag… prism, an octagonal prism or octagonal prism. [opens box] That’s right, it is. [Audience laughter and applause] [7:54]

Cliff Mead: Linus Pauling, the great showman and scientist, performing his duties for the Children’s Television Workshop in 1983.


Watch Other Videos

Session 1: Scientists and Textbooks

Session 2: Popular and Public Science

Session 3: The Scientist as Public Citizen

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