Even though I call myself a man of science, looking at it realistically I’m not anymore. Yes, I did get through a Science Degree, and then went on to do Honours. I would have gone further, but life did it’s thing. Anyway.
Them’s the breaks, right?
In the ensuing years I have fought hard to keep my mind active, and to maintain an interest and/or presence in the world of science. Seeing as I’m not a practising scientist by any stretch of the imagination, it seemed natural to engage in scicomm (or my bargain basement variation of it). I have been working hard on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and now WordPress to get myself in people’s faces about science. It has definitely been tricky and often tedious work. Sometimes, it’s been plain heartbreaking. Others whom I follow (particularly on Twitter where most conversation happens) speak of “Imposter Syndrome” It has it’s own hashtag and all! People are speaking about it that much. Well, despite my genuine achievements in the world of science, and my own meagre scicomm presence I generally feel like a bit of a pretender.
Then, something comes along to help me out. Life does this sometimes.
I had the pleasure this morning to meet a follower who has been avidly following my scicomm journey. He is a 78 year old man, and it seems he isn’t ready for the scrap heap just yet. On meeting for coffee he was practically gushing to meet me, and thanked me for firing up an interest in such things as science and astronomy. Were it not for me, he claims, his brain would be slowly turning to mush. I have been working on a blog post about the place of our senior citizens in a world of longer lifespans and increasing connectivity. I don’t know if I’ll ever finish that post, but occasions like our chat this morning drive home for me an important realisation:
We are living longer. Much longer. We are healthier for longer. Yet, we don’t really value the old for what they are. In a sense, I’m looking at them as a resource, because that’s what they are. The old are a repository of experience and information. Nobody would baulk if I referred to a library as a resource, right? Well the old are exactly that; a living breathing library. A key difference here though is that they want to talk and share what’s in their heads. Show me a lending library anywhere in the world that is falling over itself to tell you what it knows.
We have the capacity to be much more useful for much longer. This 78 year old man is a single example of that. He’s worked in telecommunications, and on rocket bases. He’s travelled the world and seen technology changing the world. Instead of succumbing to “future shock”, as Alvin Toffler called it, this man has grabbed change by the horns, with a real can do attitude. I am completely and unashamedly proud to state that I’m responsible for a bit of a sea change in his thinking. I’ve got him interested again.
I already know he has plenty of stories to tell, and I intend passing them on to you as I can, as they come. He told me he’s the last of his circle, and it would be a shame to lose all that history. So stay tuned.
My own attempts at reaching out to the science world are tiny, but I know that they’ve made a difference to someone, and for me that is exactly what I wanted to do.
For my Father.