Thursday, April 21, 2005

Octopus shirts

Shirt Octo
Like Preshrunk, Team TfK loves the cephalopod T-shirts. That's why I'm thrilled to show you this. From the minds that brought you dinosaur comics and shirts with dinosaurs crushing people, the best octoshirt ever. If only it had 6 extra arm holes.

It's a shame that Dr. Myers won't get one in time for his first Cafe Scientifique. I bet it would make a real splash.

On a non-cephalopod note, I think that Cafe Scientifique is a stupendous idea. Bring big scientists in to chat, not lecture, about their work.

I know that I really found my calling within ecology in a class where the professor went away for the last half of the quarter. He gave us the basics of biogeography for 4-5 weeks, then went to look at lions in Africa. The rest of the quarter was a series of seminars. Undergrads, even in the sciences, are used to thinking science as a collection of facts, and the excitement of discovery doesn't come through.

But for 5 weeks, a different professor, curator, or grad student came in, talked about new research, showed some results, and showed some of what we don't know yet. That was exciting. It changed how I understood science on some deep level.

The public is in an even worse situation. I had been reading the literature and knew all that stuff on an intellectual level. People who didn't major in a science don't. Outreach matters, because science matters to people, and the people matter to science. For the past 50 years, science has largely been federally funded, and people will only support what they understand.

The evolution fight is the most obvious place where a failure to communicate clearly is biting scientists. Inadequate funding for American supercolliders and such is another, along with the impending doom of the Hubble Telescope, and the languishing manned space program. There isn't enough money, training and support for new systematists striving to describe the diversity of life as it slips away.

Wearing an octopus isn't much, but it will remind people that nature is fascinating and beautiful. Give it a shot.

Octopus's Garden” by The Beatles from the album Abbey Road (1969, 2:48).