Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

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

October 29 - 30, 2007

Video: “On Bonding with the Public” Bassam Shakhashiri

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39:42 - Abstract | Biography | More Videos from Session 2: Popular and Public Science

Transcript

Cliff Mead: So, along those lines we should have some other demonstrations I think on bonding with the public. And so our first speaker this afternoon has asked me not to spend too much time on his vitae so he can spend more time with the experiments to show you. I do want to say that the equipment that you see here for the experiments you are about to see are compliments of the chemistry department, and specifically I’d like to thank Kristi Edwards and Bill Taylor for their help in bringing this over and setting this up. Bassam Shakhashiri is professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin Madison and the first holder of the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Ideal. He is well known internationally for his effective leadership in promoting excellence in science education at all levels, and his development and use of demonstrations in the teaching of chemistry in classrooms, as well as in less formal settings, such as museums, convention centers, and shopping malls. From 1984 to 1990 Professor Shakhashiri served as Assistant Director for the National Science Foundation for science and engineering education. As the N.S.F. Chief Education Officer he presided over the building of all the N.S.F. efforts in science and engineering education after they had been essentially eliminated in the early 1980’s. Professor Shakhashiri is the recipient of over thirty five awards, including the 2002 American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology. And in 2007 he received the National Science Board Public Service Award. He is the recipient of six honorary degrees. Dr. Shakhashiri. [Applause] [1:54]

Bassam Shakhashiri: Thank you very much. Good afternoon everyone. It’s an honor for me to be among the speakers at this symposium and it is a privilege, actually, to be invited to speak at the Pauling symposium. I have a lot of convictions and observations to share with you, so I will ask your indulgence in being patient as I scan them rather quickly because of the time allotted to me and to my fellow speakers. I just want to hit on some important ideas in headline form. First let me say that anniversaries are especially important to all of us because we are observing a couple of anniversaries today.

Bassam Shakhashiri: The anniversary I’m observing - and it’s an important time marker for me - is the fiftieth anniversary of my arrival in the United States from my native Lebanon. It was fifty years ago on September 17, 1957 that I, along with my parents and two younger sisters came to Boston when my father was invited to be a visiting professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. He never went back and the rest of us continue to enjoy the great hospitality and wonderful opportunities that are available in this country. And I want to invite you, if you haven’t been to my website, to go to my website, it’s scifun.org. You don’t have to write it down, just say it quietly a couple of times, scifun.org, scifun.org, scifun.org. Say it three times and you got it. Not only visit my website, but please act on what you see there, and I want to share with you today some, as I said, convictions and observations that relate to bonding with the public. And I don’t want to get carried away with metaphors and analogies, but I want to say at the outset that it’s not clear whether bonding with the public involves covalent bonding, or it involves coordinate covalent bonding, or ionic bonding. And I’m serious about this because we learn a lot from metaphors, and we use analogies a lot. In fact, one of my distinguished fellow speakers uses parables a great deal. Very effectively, but I want to have us focus on the meaning of the word "bonding." You know all of chemistry is about breaking bonds and making bonds. [5:00]

You think about it. All chemical transformations are about breaking bonds and making bonds and those of us in the scientific community should understand the nature of the bonds that we have among ourselves and the bonds that we want to have with the public. So hence the title that I have selected for my talk, and I’m going to go rather quickly through some observations. I share them with you, as I say, out of conviction and out of commitment. So, I got to point at this. Let me just mention a couple of personal connections with Linus Pauling. In 1987 he received the A.C.S. Award in Chemical Education. I received the same award the year before and it was my privilege to organize a symposium in his honor at the A.C.S. meeting when he received this award and he was of course the featured speaker in that symposium. And I want to tell you about a story that he shared with the audience that day. When asked what got him interested in chemistry he said he had a high school teacher who showed him how to dispense a liquid through a device called a burette by turning a valve at the bottom. And when the two liquids mixed the one flowing from the burette and the one in the flask, then a beautiful color developed. He was fascinated by that. I always remember that story that he said. So that’s one personal connection that I have with Linus Pauling. The second one is that in 1992 at the first Gordon Research Conference on Science Education, Linus Pauling, Norman Hackerman, and myself, were the three plenary speakers and it was really a big honor for me to be in company of such giants in chemistry and in science. The third connection that I have, personal connection, is that in 1996 Linus Pauling was inducted into the Alpha Chi Sigma Hall of Fame. Alpha Chi Sigma, the National Chemistry Fraternity, has altogether since its inception in 1902, had thirty-two people inducted into their Hall of Fame and only four of them are alive. Professor Pauling of course was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame. I was inducted in 2004 and at the induction ceremony I said, among other things, it is better to be inducted while I’m alive than otherwise. [Laughter] There are other connections that I have with Professor Pauling. In 1989, he received the Vannevar Bush Award at the N.S.F. I was the Assistant Director back then. So there are some personal connections outside of learning from his books and learning from his writings and his influence. [8:00]

So, if you remember anything from what I am sharing with you this afternoon, I’d like you to remember these four words plus the two that come after them, six words altogether. I want you to remember the word freedom, liberty, responsibility, and citizenship. Freedom! Without freedom we cannot do science. There’d be no advances in science. Freedom gives us opportunities to learn more and because we are free we then help advance liberty in our society. And along with the freedom that we have and along with the liberty that we enjoy and help others enjoy, we have responsibilities. We have responsibilities to ourselves, and to each other and to all fellow citizens. That’s why citizenship is the fourth entry that I have here. And I mean citizenship in a nation, but I also mean citizenship of the world because we as inhabitants of the planet have an awesome responsibility to each other and to fellow inhabitants of the planet. So those four words, think about them. Please remember them and see if I’m successful in weaving them into what I’m trying to share with you. The other two words that I feel very strongly about, in that in everything that we do, as scientists, as human beings, we must be humane. In everything that we do we must be humane and we must be humanitarian. It is very essential for us as free people, who enjoy considerable liberty, who have many responsibilities, to act in humane and humanitarian ways in everything that we do. [10:02]

And so, to put all of this in context let me now proceed to ask you a question. I’d like to ask you this question. What is the one thing that you can think of that differentiates our society now from all previous societies? What’s the one thing you can think of that differentiates the society now from society, say, fifty years ago or a hundred years ago or five hundred years ago or a thousand years ago? This is not a rhetorical question, I’d like some answers to my question. What is it that you think…yes, speak out so I can hear you.

Audience Member 1: You may not like this answer.

Bassam Shakhashiri: I like whatever you’re going to say. Go ahead.

Audience Member 1: Okay, we live in a society in which the advances of science have terrorized us.

Bassam Shakhashiri: Advances of science terrorize. Okay, okay. What others?

Audience Member 2: Atomic weapons.

Bassam Shakhashiri: Atomic weapons. Okay. What else?

Audience Member 2: On that note.

Bassam Shakhashiri: Yes.

Audience Member 3: The ability to communicate.

Bassam Shakhashiri: Communication. Yes. Keep going.

Audience Member 4: Electronics.

Bassam Shakhashiri: Electronics. Keep going. Each one of us can come with a list of at least a dozen entries from which you can select what the one thing is that differentiates our society from all previous society. In the interest of time I’m going to tell you what my answer is in one word…science and its twin, technology. You know, a long time ago our ancestors used technology to build cities, build canals, build pyramids. They invented the printing press not knowing much science. Technology drove society. Electricity was used without knowing about the electron. How long ago was the electron discovered? Other than Dudley, who’s going to give me the answer to that one? Huh? Huh? Yeah.

Audience Member 5: 110 years.

Bassam Shakhashiri: Yes, 110 years, yes. We now live in a very advanced scientific age where science drives technology. All the technological advances that we enjoy now are based on scientific understanding and I wish I had more time to dwell on this point, but I want you to think about it. I want you to think about now we can build, we can build pyramids at the atomic level. I’ve seen pictures of them. Unlike our ancestors, who built different kinds of pyramids. So, science, science is very critical to all of us and to the advances that we enjoy. And also along with science there are consequences. So, new discoveries, we make new discoveries in science. That leads to enlightenment. We know more. It’s what we do with what we know that counts. It’s not just knowing more. It’s the responsibility that we take with the enlightenment that we acquire and develop. With new discoveries comes societal progress. Along with societal progress comes also societal problems and that’s why we have to be responsible in what we do. Again I share all of this with you in headline form so that we can try to scan these various aspects of attempting to bond with the public. We really must understand the public we’re trying to bond with. It’s not the public understanding of science. It’s the scientist’s understanding of the public that we’re trying to deal with. It’s very, very important for us to be careful about that point. So, I believe that society can be divided into two sectors. The so-called science-rich sector and the science-poor sector. Who’s in the science-rich sector? Colleges and universities, parts of industry, the national laboratories. Who’s in the science-poor sector? Everyone else. And the gap between these two sectors is widening at a very alarming rate to the detriment of both sectors. And there are profound reasons as to why those of us in the science-rich sector should pay attention to the science-poor sector. Very profound reasons, but I'm going to give you one crass reason. The people in the science-poor sector pay for what the people in the science-rich sector do. We have an awesome responsibility not only to ourselves, but to everyone in society. I make a distinction between scientific literacy and science literacy. Scientific literacy refers to the practitioners of science, the attitudes that they have, the methods that they use, how they conduct themselves in pursuing science; while science literacy refers to the appreciation of science without necessarily a deep understanding of physics, chemistry, or biology, or any other science. [14:55]

And I make this distinction, it's not just a pedantic distinction, it is a very important distinction because to achieve science literacy, most people when they talk about wanting to achieve scientific literacy they really mean science literacy and I just want to differentiate between those two. I'll give you an analogy. This analogy comes from sports. Just as we have professional baseball players, hockey players, football players, basketball players, etc. we also have sports fans. Without those sports fans the entire professional sports enterprise would be nothing and you know that's not an exaggeration. So that's what we need. We need scientists, who are scientifically literate, and we need science fans who are not simply sitting in the stands as passive spectators. Some of them may want to show up on the playing field. We want to encourage that, but most of them are not going to be scientists. But we need to develop this appreciation of science and I give you another analogy to make the distinction between those two. This second analogy sits better with different audiences. We need orchestra players and we need audiences that appreciate what the performers are doing, hence the emphasis on scientific and science literacy. We now live in a very advanced scientific and technological age, and it is said that perhaps among those who are most science illiterate are those who are scientifically literate. Why is that? Because of the subspecialties that we have and the importance of putting our subspecialties in a broader context so that we really get to enjoy the beautiful world that we live in that is full of science, technology, and the unknown as well. I ask that in whatever we do that we be clear on the purposes for which we do it. What is the purpose of this conference? I'm not asking for unity of purpose, I'm asking for clarity of purpose. It's not a single purpose. What is the purpose of teaching a course? What is the purpose of belonging to a professional society? What are the purposes for which we do whatever it is that we do? I ask for clarity of purpose. I'm often asked questions. People ask me, "Dr. Shakhashiri," because I give a lot of talks to civic groups and to religious groups as well, "What's the purpose of education?" "You're in an educational institution." I say to them, "the purpose of education is to enable individuals to fulfill their human potential." It's to enable, not to guarantee. It may have a different purpose, but this is the purpose that I have. They ask me, "What's the purpose of doing research? You are at a major research university. You are involved in the National Science Foundation. What's the purpose of doing research?" The purpose of doing research is to advance knowledge. Period. You see that period right there? Period. That's the purpose of doing research. Again I can elaborate, all of us can elaborate on this point. People ask me, "What's the purpose of technology?" I say the purpose of technology is to advance the human condition. But you and I know that advances in science and technology do not always lead to advancing the human condition. They threaten the human condition as well and that's why we have to be responsible in what it is that we are pursuing as we attempt to communicate our science, ourselves, our values, to the public at large. So what's the purpose of bonding with the public? What are the purposes? I have several question marks here, there are more question marks. I think we need to think that one very carefully, so that we appreciate what it is that we want to communicate to the public at large. There are many purposes and others have spent considerable scholarly time discussing and dealing with them. Here's one publication and everyone who cares about the communication of science should know about. That is Science and Engineering Indicators. It is a biannual report that comes out of the National Science Board. How many people in the audience have looked at a form of the Science Indicators, just raise your hands? You're willing to admit to it. I hope the next time I come to a conference like this everybody will raise their hand. If you care about bonding with the public, you have to learn more about what these indicators tell us. They're a very valuable resource of information, knowledge, and help guide the action that we want to take. So, here is Pasteur's quadrant. Do I dare ask how many people in the audience know what I'm talking about when I mention Pasteur's quadrant. Raise your hand if you know what I'm talking about. Yes one, two, three people. [19:51]

Donald Stokes, in 1997, published a book trying to relate scientific complexity and social utility, and these words speak for themselves and try to identify to us ways by which we can organize our knowledge of science and what it is we want people to support us for. A few years later Sonnert and Holton came up with the Jeffersonian Science, which is basic science motivated by social needs. Again a similar kind of idea, which I think must be the subject of considerable discussion among scientists, engineers, mathematicians, who care about bonding with the public. Very recently social scientists have become involved in this attempt, that is this month in The Scientist, Nesbit and Scheufele have published a paper, "The Future of Public Engagement." The facts never speak for themselves, which is why scientists need to frame their messages to the public. Nesbit again, earlier this year, "Science and Society," framing science. He repeats this message, "I welcome the participation of social scientists in our attempt to communicate with the public as we try to understand better what it is that we are trying to communicate." Alright, so as I said, chemistry is the central science, it’s often said that. I like to say chemistry is the familiar science. In fact I'd like to modify this, I'd like to say chemistry is the science of the familiar because everything around us is made of chemicals. And everything that we deal with, deals with chemicals. So the focus is on what chemistry is. Chemistry is all around us and one purpose of communicating chemistry is to showcase chemistry at its best in addressing significant human and societal issues. Chemistry can lead to other things that are not good for humanity, but I would suggest that one purpose, not the only purpose, of communicating chemistry is to showcase chemistry. We showcase what we do as chemists and try to address significant and human societal issues. Communicating chemistry is something that we do, we do it very well, like this meeting, and so on. But there are other ways in which communicating chemistry can take place and these are informal settings on radio, television, through the web, print media, schools, shopping malls, museums, science centers, political conventions, state government, halls of Congress. Let me just take twenty seconds here to say something about the halls of Congress. The beloved Senator from - I’m told he’s beloved, you correct me if I’m wrong - from Oregon, Mark Hatfield, was Senator for a long time. I had an experience with him one time. Many experiences, but I’ll tell you about this one. He and I were at N.I.H. for a panel and he invited me to come and visit him in his office. So the next day I went to his office. I had given him, and everybody else who was in the audience, a "Science is Fun" button. Just like this one, except it was blue. And so when I went to his office I walked in, I was escorted in. It was just a one-on-one meeting and he was a very powerful person, you know. He was a ranking member of the appropriations committee. And I walked in and he was wearing a "Science is Fun" button and he said to me, "Where’s your button?" And I told him the truth. I took a cab from the N.S.F. headquarters eighteen hundred G street to Capital Hill and the cabbie said, "Your button says, ‘Science is fun.’" And I said, "Yeah, it is." He said, "Could I have it for my kid?" I said, "of course." So I gave it to him. Anyway, it is very important for us to communicate science and to communicate chemistry in all kinds of settings. Now Professor Herschbach and I are on a campaign and we have been for about ten years or so now to ask PhD thesis advisors to have their students include a chapter in their PhD thesis on some educational experiment that they may have done at the K through 21 level or at a museum or a science center, or something they did with the public media. I don’t know how successful we are Dudley, but we keep preaching.

Dudley Herschbach: …you’ll have to look on YouTube now.

Bassam Shakhashiri: Yes, yes. We should take advantage of that too. But, both Professor Herschbach and I also believe there should be a chapter explaining the research to a family member. The candidate should explain the research to his mother or to her father in language that can be understood by everyone that’s listed in here. It’s very important that we do that. And those of you who are in the audience who have something to do with graduate education, I ask you to pass this on so that we really learn how to communicate with the public at large. If we cannot explain the research that we did to any of the people listed here then it is a failure in my book, of what happened in graduate education. One of the differences between graduate training and graduate education is the ability to explain what it is that you have done as a researcher. Alright, let me move very quickly here. [25:30]

Last week was National Chemistry Week and the twentieth anniversary of National Chemistry Week. Here’s Professor Herschbach at the Framingham State University. He and I did some programs there. I’m just going to go through this very quickly to show you the theme of this year’s National Chemistry Week, "The Many Faces of Chemistry." Here are two excellent communicators of chemistry: Roald Hoffman, a Nobel Laureate, and Oliver Sacks, and he’s, as you can see, holding a chemical clock here. If you look very carefully at this clock, I don’t think you can see it but it is autographed right there. It says, "Bassam Z. Shakhashiri." This is a twenty four hour clock. It’s commercially available. This is not an ad here, this is not a plug. I’m just telling you because I get questions about it afterwards. Alright and he has written, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood" And he now has published a book this month called, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. I highly recommend those two books by Oliver Sacks to you. [26:30]

Two people that have done considerable work in steroid chemistry. You’ll hear about Percy Julian a bit later on this afternoon. Carl Djerassi and this whimsical picture he sent me. This is the birth control pill. Of course he’s credited as being the inventor of the birth control pill. Here is Linus Pauling. Anna Harrison is the first woman elected president of the A.C.S. Here is Glen Seaborg pointing to the element named after him in the periodic table. Here is a nice display of the periodic table. I want young people in the audience to see there is Glen Seaborg, there is Niels Bohr. But also to see that there are elements here not named yet and maybe they’ll be named after you if you do something important. And maybe one of them will be named after Linus Pauling. There are more faces of chemistry all over, in academe and industry. Here’s Jackie Barton. She’s the Pauling medalist this year. She’ll be coming here in a couple of weeks. She is on the board of directors of the Dow Chemical Company. This is the CEO of the DuPont Company and this is the Chief Technology Officer. I don’t know what this fellow is doing in the middle there. Yes I do know. I was giving a Lavoisier lecture at DuPont there. So, there are all kinds of faces of chemistry. In these two ads, the DuPont logo is "The Miracles of Science," and then the Dow "Successful," ad. If you go to the Web, dealing with the human element, you can click on any of these things and see what Dow is trying to do in having science serve human needs. These are not their words, these are my words. I simply share them with you very quickly. Here’s some young people doing hands-on experiments. Here are also some more people doing hands-on experiments. This young lady here, sixteen years old, she was in my Christmas lecture, "Once Upon a Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri." And she participated not only in two experiments, but she plays the violin and ten days after playing the violin in this lecture she made her debut at Carnegie Hall. So there are all kinds of talented people who can go into science and other human endeavors that can be faces of chemistry. Okay, now I show you the MO diagram for oxygen. The color code here is important. So, the triplet state is the blue and the singlet state is the yellow, is the red, I’m sorry. And what I want to show you is a diagram of singlet oxygen, a picture of singlet oxygen that’s easily made by bubbling chlorine gas into alkaline hydrogen peroxide, and you make singlet oxygen. It is quenched rather quickly so that the light doesn’t last very long. But I want to show you now an excerpt from my Christmas lecture: [29:22]

[Video begins]

Shakhashiri: You take the liquid nitrogen and put the liquid nitrogen between the poles of the magnet.

Just pour it in. What’s happening to the liquid? Just passing through, right? So the liquid nitrogen does not have any magnetic properties. The next thing that I’m going to do is take some liquid oxygen that I have in this tube right here. And I’m going to pour the liquid oxygen and see what happens.

Audience Member: Whoa.

Shakhashiri: And you see the liquid held between the poles of the magnet, right? [Applause] [30:07]

The liquid is held between the poles of the magnet and still it evaporates. This tells us that liquid oxygen has magnetic properties. We call that paramagnetism. Paramagnetic is the property of not only liquid oxygen, but gaseous oxygen. So what I want to do with the remainder of the oxygen? By the way, this is a very highly concentrated amount of oxygen. A lot more than what’s in the air because it’s condensed. So, I want to do an experiment with this and to do this experiment I need to get another prop from over here. Actually, this is the only prop I’m going to use because all the other things that I use are real equipment chemicals that we use here. And so what this is, is a cigarette. I’m going to light a cigarette. "Don’t do it," he says.

I’m just going to light it, okay? [coughing] You’re right. Bad stuff. People actually like this? Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to take this cigarette, put it in this beaker. It’s a lit cigarette. And then I’m going to take the oxygen from the tube and I want you to see this very clearly. Here’s the oxygen and … [Applause]

That’s what I think you should do with all cigarettes. [Applause] [Video ends] [31:53]

Bassam Shakhashiri: So, I’ll just mention to you briefly something about the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy. With two goals: promote literacy and science, math and technology among the general public, and attract future generations to careers in research, teaching, and public service. Visit our website and learn more about the programs that we do. I only mention those, highlight a couple here, the Science is Fun program that we do, the Christmas lecture. Science, the arts, and the humanities. I think creativity among scientists, artists, and humanists intersect and should be explored and promoted together. Our latest program, which is about a year old now is science, religion, politics, and ethics. Have I left anything out? It’s very important for us if we want to bond with the public we need to identify the segments that we want to bond with and find effective ways of doing it. Among other things that we have done is sponsor an oxygen symposium in conjunction with the play, Oxygen, that Carl Djerassi and Roald Hoffmann wrote, that was staged at G.W. Madison. It’s available on DVD, from Educational Innovations. And also show you Francisco Ayala when he came to launch our program on science, religion, and politics, and ethics. And so what I’d like to close with is to show you a couple of experiments here as advertised. I’ll do this very quickly. I’ll keep on time. I know Cliff we have gone a little bit beyond, but I’m going to do this very carefully. You all notice that I did what? I put my goggles on, right? That’s a state law. I’m a law abiding citizen. And it’s very important that we do this. And the experiment I’m going to do now is with the beakers that I have between my hands. How many beakers do you see? [33:48]

Audience Member: A dozen.

Bassam Shakhashiri: You count them, right? You make your own observations and you make your own reporting of the observations. These beakers, are they large beakers or small beakers?

Audience Member: Large.

Bassam Shakhashiri: How large is large? Alright, are they medium? I know they’re medium, right? I want everybody to look at those beakers because if you look at those beakers they are one liter in size. And if you look at them right now you just learned how big one liter is. And you know something? You cannot unlearn that. You may forget it, that’s different. [Laughter]

You think about it. Okay? And these beakers have what in them? They have liquids, and they are colored liquids. And are they organized in some kind of order or are they haphazardly displayed? They seem to be organized by the color of the liquid in the beakers and they’re organized in pairs, right? And so what I’m going to do, put my gloves on here and I’m going to reach in and get some dry ice, which is solid carbon dioxide and we’ll take some carbon dioxide in the solid form. And it is at minus seventy eight degrees Celsius. It’s very cold, that’s why I put the gloves on to protect my hands from frostbite and dry ice sublimes into a gas without melting. [35:05]

That process we call sublimation. Sublimation is happening all the time of dry ice. And even when I hold the dry ice in my hand right here. These gloves, by the way, are not very good insulators, but they’re good enough for the purpose that I’m using here. I’m not squeezing, right? So sublimation is not happening right now, why? I mean sublimation is happening, but we can’t see the CO2 gas. Why? Because it is colorless, it’s invisible, right? And it’s gas mixing with gas. Now, gas is mixing with liquid, so you can see the bubbles. Those bubbles are carbon dioxide bubbles and you see all kinds of other changes that are happening. You see any change in this pair here…where I put the dry ice? What happened? The colored changed. From what to what? The color of the beaker changed? The color of the liquid in the beaker where I put the dry ice changed. It’s very important when we do science that we communicate the science and help other people learn the proper communication of science. So, all kinds of bubbling taking place. What’s the stuff that’s coming off the top? What does it look like? It looks like smoke, but it’s not smoke.

Audience Member: Like fog. [36:18]

Bassam Shakhashiri: Is it carbon dioxide? Carbon dioxide is colorless, it’s invisible, you can’t see it. It is condensed water vapor. And the condensation is taking place from the CO2 from the sublimation process and you notice that the mist, or the cloud, or the fog, is moving downward. That’s because carbon dioxide gas is denser than air. If you didn’t know that you just learned it and if you did know it this is a beautiful way to describe it. And so what I want to show you now, is my very last experiment, where I take this dishpan, which is empty except for what? What’s in the dishpan? Air! Air’s invisible, you can’t see air either. So, I’m going to walk over to that flask over here and see it has water in it. It has been heating. And I use my gloves now to protect my hands from heat boiled over on my glove, but I’ll be careful about it. And what I’m going to do is dump the water into this empty dishpan, except for air, and what do you see coming off the top? Steam is invisible, you can’t see steam. What you see is condensed water vapor. The hot water vapor hits the cold air and it condenses, right? That’s what it is. Now, over here it’s because of the carbon dioxide that’s in there and so I’m going to take the rest of the carbon dioxide I have in here, I’m going to dump it in there. I’m still here. [Laughter]

This is how they make fog in the movies sometimes. They take boiling water, add dry ice to it and put a fan on it and blow it in any direction they want. So, what’s the point of this experiment? It’s colorful, it gets your attention, makes you ask questions. But there’s another great opportunity when doing this experiment. We talk about greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, right? What about greenhouse gases? Are they good for us or bad for us? Both, right? I mean, if it weren’t for greenhouse gases we wouldn’t be alive. The surface of the planet would be as cold as Mars, right? So, what’s the problem with carbon dioxide? So, you can use this as a point of departure for talking about greenhouse gases. And you can also tell people because most people don’t know the most abundant greenhouse gas is what? Water vapor, water vapor. They don’t know that. They think it’s methane or CO2. Very few know N2O is also a greenhouse gas, but they don’t realize that water is the most abundant one. And so in my attempt to share with you these convictions and these comments about the importance of communicating with the public it’s very important that all of us to try to understand what it is we’re trying to communicate and develop effective strategies for communicating with each other and with the public at large. Thank you very much. [Applause] [39:36]

 

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