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My Views- Science Communication & Scientific Literacy

Hey Guys!

First of all, I’m sooooooooo sorry for breaking my promise and stuff. I know this is super terrible because yeah (breaking promises is bad). To make up for it, i will (probably) be writing more posts (so as long as Julian continues to pester me ceaselessly). I still want to aim for the 1 post every fortnight goal and i’ll still keep trying to achieve that someday.

Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before making a promise to a bunch of people

-Clyde Lhui 2016

Lately i have been getting into a lot of stuff. Stuff like learning Japanese, photography, music, cooking and a bunch of other stuff. I might be writing posts about those in future so yeah (i know i say this a lot and end up not writing but oh wells).

Well as you can probably tell by the title, this post is about science communication and scientific literacy (pretty self explanatory i guess). I feel very strongly about these 2 topics and that’s why I’m writing this post.

So first off, DEFINITIONS!

Science communication generally refers to public communication presenting science-related topics to non-experts. This often involves professional scientists (called “outreach” or “popularization”), but has also evolved into a professional field in its own right. It includes scienceexhibitions, journalism, policy or media production.

-Wikipedia

And…

Scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. It also includes specific types of abilities.

-Literacynet.org

 

I know that you guys could have easily googled that but hey, 10 seconds saved is 10 seconds saved 🙂

So in short, science communication is talking to people who aren’t scientists about science and scientific literacy is knowing enough science to make logical and good decisions.

I think you are beginning to see how these 2 things are linked.

Perhaps i should further explain why i decided to write this post. In my daily life, i spend a lot of time with my friends (who are largely a group of nerds (who mostly take pride in their nerdhood)) and my family. Since i love science and i spend a lot of my time with my friends  (who are nerds), we spend a lot of time talking about science and related topics. As such, when i talk to my family about a ‘science related topic’ (I’ll explain the apostrophe later), i notice whenever something is off.

My aunts and uncles like to send long WhatsApp messages about stuff they hear from their friends and 95% of those messages that i end up reading are wrong in one way or another. My mum once showed me this video:

Well I think most of you can see why this video is wrong.

(In case you didn’t figure it out, your stomach is part of your body which is at 37 degrees Celsius for the most part)

(Also ice water warming up is kind of a thing)

I know some of you must be thinking: “I’m not stupid, i wouldn’t believe things that don’t make sense.”

Well there are quite a lot of things that people misunderstand.

For starters, nuclear power. I am a strong advocate for nuclear power. It’s clean, reliable and fairly safe. Unlike solar panels or wind turbines that stop working once the sun stops shining or the wind stops blowing, nuclear power plants can work 24/7 and supply enough power to support entire power grids. Furthermore, new nuclear plant designs which have improved safety features are constantly being suggested, making future power plants safer than before. Despite this, many people have a very negative impression of nuclear power.

Image result for nuclear power plant cooling tower

Does this look familiar?

Well it should. I have seen countless news reports about climate change showing images or videos these pumping out massive white clouds.

The only thing is these are the cooling towers of nuclear power plants.

Most people see these images and go “OH NO! We are pumping all that carbon dioxide into the atmosphere!?”. However, the white clouds coming out of the cooling towers are literal clouds: clouds of water droplets.

(Hopefully) by now you should understand the fact that we are prone to having a lot of misconceptions. It could be due to the way the media presents facts, the way social media promotes controversial content or any other reason out there. Regardless of the reason, i hope that you understand that this is pretty bad and it’s something that is extremely hard to avoid. I myself cannot claim that all the knowledge i possess is 100% accurate (in fact i do get things wrong pretty often).

What i hope you get out of reading this post is that knowledge is never absolute and that life and learning is all about constantly renewing our knowledge by being sceptical and challenging our own beliefs. We all need to keep reading and keep discussing so as to improve the accuracy of our knowledge. I think it’s also important for us to keep an open mind and not to immediately say “No that’s wrong.” when someone has contrasting beliefs (well you could but remember to provide your reasons and explain your views).

Never stop questioning your beliefs and perhaps one day there won’t be Geography teachers believing that the Earth goes around the sun in a day and rotates once around its axis in a year.

Thanks for reading!

Clyde Lhui 🙂

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My Views- Why you shouldn’t hate science

Hi guys,

I decided to type this post because I’ve been thinking about this topic more frequently lately.

This year, i have had the chance to participate as a facilitator in an event organized by Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (SCGS) called Open Little Eyes (OLE). I participated in this event together with a few friends from my school. Through the event, i have made several new friends, who are either the same age as me (Sec 2) or one year younger than me (Sec 1). I have been talking to them quite a bit even though the event has long ended. When we talk, we usually talk about school and other stuff. However, whenever i bring up the topic about physics or science in general, they would all start freaking out. They have told me multiple times that they do not like science (or physics to me more specific). That made me think more why didn’t so many people like physics or science? Its not just my OLE friends, its practically everyone who I’ve met (excluding some people).

Let’s begin from the start. When Singapore was a very young nation, the government decided to implement mathematics and science into the education system so as to increase the rate of growth of our nation by rapid industrialization which required skills such as proficiency in mathematics and a basic knowledge of scientific concepts. This has to this date remained an integral part of our education system, training critical thinking and the ability of students to solve problems. However, this has caused some students to start feeling doubtful of the subject, some of them even strongly dislike these subjects. I myself have questioned the reason for us to study math and even engaged in a debate with my dad, finally conceding to the fact that mathematics is useful to me.

For a start, lets talk about mathematics. Math used to my second most hated subject in the 4 core subjects (Math, Mother tongue, English and Science). The reason for this hatred? The very nature of mathematics. Math is very repetitive in nature and requires a lot of practice. Without sufficient practice, one may find the subject extremely difficult. In fact, practice is the only way one can master mathematics. Sometimes math may seem useless. Algebra for instance seemed useless to me at the start of last year. I always wondered “Why would i ever need to factorize anything in real life?”. Over time i realized that math was actually very important in real life. Physics requires the use of a lot of math. I also found the fun in math. However it still ranks third in my 4 core subjects. (I still love my English and of course my science).

Now on to the core of this post, why do people dislike science? I found out that the reason lies in others’ perception of the subject. People perceive science as an extremely difficult subject and they stay away from it. In some cases, this fear of the difficulty of science causes their standard of the subject to drop. They get intimidated and they stop trying. I have to admit, i was daunted by secondary school mathematics at first. However after analyzing the subject at a deeper level, i see its beauty and its importance. This then motivated me to try to understand the key concepts rather than just learning how to do the questions. This is also another problem: the fact that students learn only what is required and not trying to progress further. Science is a very broad subject and there are may areas in which people might be interested in. I actually do not like parts of physics. Although its my favorite subject, i still hate certain topics (especially optics). If you stop at what is required of you, you might just miss the interesting parts. The only other reason why people might not like the subject is because of the way that it is being taught. As for this, you might want to consider approaching your friends or your teacher to further inquire. I used to ask many questions and that is what caused me to like science so much. To this day, i’m still asking plenty of questions and it certainly helps in my learning process.

To end off, I wish you all the best in your journey of scientific inquiry and i hope that you have an awesome times studying science. Whatever you do, don’t give up on science and it won’t give up on you.

Regards,

Clyde Lhui 🙂

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My View- What is Physics? (or Science rather)

Hi guys,

I’m doing another ‘My View’ post. Sorry for not posting any science concepts for so long. I’m working on it.

Why did i choose to write about this? I have been asked this question many many times. Please do note that this definition of physics that i speak of is my own personal opinion and it’s not a universal fact so feel free to comment and voice your opinions!

But just for those who wanted a standard definition:

noun, (used with a singular verb)
1. the science that deals with matter, energy, motion, and force.
Physics is the study of the fundamental ‘things’ that make up and influence everything in the universe and their interactions with each other.

Physics aims to unify everything to get the most fundamental ‘things’ that govern our universe. When I use ‘things’ I mean practically everything. From forces to energy, from matter to antimatter.

And precisely because of the fact that physics is so fundamental that i love it so much.

Allow me to use an analogy, the engineer who knows how every single part of a car is able to understand how to drive the car, but the driver who drives the car does not know how all the different parts of the car work. And this is why physics is so powerful.

It is able to explain the other 2 sciences, chemistry and biology. It can explain how particles interact at the subatomic level, therefore being able to explain things at the atomic level, therefore being able to explain things at the molecular level, therefore being able to explain things at the biological level.

Then aren’t the other 2 sciences useless? NO! Biology and Chemistry are very very important. Despite physics being the most fundamental, biology and chemistry allow us to be much more efficient and be more accurate at the macro level.

Let’s go back to the analogy, if the engineer who knows how the car works but doesn’t know how to drive wants to drive the car. Theoretically he can slowly learn how to control the car by analyzing its most fundamental components. However this would be very impractical as he would have to waste a lot of time to do so.

Biology and chemistry allow us to focus on broader issues while sacrificing breadth for depth. They allow us to be efficient and in the modern society is very very important.

So does that mean that Physics again is useless? Obviously not. Physics is still able to describe other phenomena that occur at the macro scale. Thing such as forces and velocity are still important.

So what is Physics to me?

(After all this is a ‘My View’ post)

Physics is the subject that I love so deeply. The subject that keeps me coming back for more. The subject that never fails to intrigue me. The subject which relieves my stress yet at the same time stresses it out. I hate it yet i love it.

When i first became interested in science, i loved chemistry. I thought that chemistry could solve all my problems. I thought it was the science that made the most sense, until i met physics. In the beginning i found it interesting and i wanted to learn more. However i couldn’t find anyone to teach me the basics. My only source of valuable physics knowledge were my weekly physics classes. I asked questions, many many questions. I asked questions like “Does light have mass?” “What is antimatter” and even engaged in debates with my father and my friends about these concepts.

By this point i was learning something new every week. The pace of which i was absorbing knowledge was increasing steadily too. Then i hit a wall. The questions were getting more and more difficult. I realized that although i was absorbing a lot of information, it wasn’t all useful and it was fragmented. The link between each topic was very vague.

At the end of the year, i received something, something i am thankful for to this day. In the beginning i underestimated its power, until i experienced it for myself. At Cnergy i was learning more than i had ever imagined. It has become the thing i look forward to every Monday. The knowledge i had access to was unbelievable. I was progressing so fast that i found myself being extremely stupid just a few months ago. The friendships i have forged in the Cnergy programme are the most valuable thing i have gained from this programme. Our Cnergy group is extremely tightly bonded.

Cnergy has also given me the opportunity to participate in many various courses and competitions. It has truly enriched my life.

Last but not least, SJPO. The Singapore Junior Physics Olympiad. I have learned so much that its literally indescribable. I am also very thankful for the chance to participate in the trainings.

So back to the question, what is Physics to me?

Other than all the things i have mentioned above, Physics is a path, a journey, a path that i am still walking on.

And I’m never getting off this path.

 

Regards,

Clyde Lhui 🙂

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My View- Science Education

Hey guys,

Today, I had my Physics paper (or at least when i started to type this post) and as you guys probably know, Physics is my favorite subject. And today i would like to voice out my opinion on science education as a secondary 2 student.

I have been studying science for the past 6 years of my life and it has been a pretty awesome experience. When i first started to learn science, i was really really interested in the subject already. I even began learning beyond my syllabus. By Primary 5, i could already balance equations. This year i have already learned Special Relativity. However, despite the amount of science knowledge i have accumulated, i still feel as though there are some HUGE flaws in my knowledge.

Before i go on to explaining why, let me talk about the 2 periods which i learned the most so far.

The first time i started learning that there was knowledge which was way awesome than i thought possible was in my late Primary school years. I learned about chemistry, physics, biology and such, mostly chemistry though. I learned this mostly through my dad and some from my primary school teachers. I would stay back in school until late in the afternoon, around 4-5pm, asking my science teachers various questions until i decided it was too late to stay any longer and just went home. However during that period, my learning pace was extremely slow, i took around 3 hours to just learn what was a hypothesis. Back then, i questioned things at the subatomic level and many of the teachers who had taught me said ” What you’re asking is quantum physics, you might want to read up on that.” However i did not get the chance to understand what quantum physics was as Wikipedia and books were way beyond my field of understanding. I literally flipped 2 pages of the books and gave up. As for the wiki page.. Go wiki “Quantum Physics” and ask a Primary 5 student (11 year old) about his opinion on the wiki page.

I only got to learn about the idea of quantum physics only this year. Which is the second point in my life where i had a jump in knowledge. I was selected for a science talent programme called ‘ CΩergy’ and i met a teacher called Mr Damian Boh. He has taught me and is still teaching me a lot in the realm of science. I can safely say that this second leap was a tiring yet rewarding experience. As  compared to my first leap in knowledge, this one was to me a lot more efficient and had a higher quality in general.

Now back to the HUGE flaws in my knowledge. Though i do know a lot, its bits and pieces of knowledge here and there about very specific things. I do not have the full knowledge of everything from the base up and it irritates  me a lot. It forces me to think about the loopholes more than i think about progressing further in my knowledge itself. In my opinion, this huge ‘knowledge abyss’ which i’m in right now is the result of my first leap in knowledge being incomplete and inefficient in nature. Why do i say it was inefficient? I was learning at a much much much slower pace as compared to that of which i am currently on. To be honest i can’t blame it on my Primary school teachers, i feel that they have done their best in educating me and i thank them a lot for that. It’s just the fact that in the past, i asked questions which did not really link, causing the HUGE gaps in my knowledge. If i had asked the right questions, my knowledge would, although might not be so advanced but would be more complete.

I feel that students, when they show interest in a particular area, should be guided and helped to develop a more complete knowledge. Rather than building a really long and tall stone rod, why not build a more stable, more solid stone block? Also students should be empowered, in the sense that they get to choose to go further in what they like rather than in what they don’t. Lastly, i feel that a student with the interest in something is like a machine, without being supplied the resources and energy required to run it, it would not work and its potential to accomplish something is just wasted.

To end off, I would like to thank all my friends who have helped me in this journey in my quest for scientific knowledge and all my teachers including Mr Tan Kian Tee, Ms Lee Limin, Mr Tan Teck Nam, Mr Tan Ping Hock, Mr Adrian Yao, Mr Edmund Yong and many others! And last but not least, You, the reader. By reading my blog, you may help me further understand science by pointing out mistakes in my explanations and allow me and the rest of the readers to further understand science!

To the edge of humanity’s knowledge of science we go!

Clyde Lhui 🙂

P.s: I’m starting a YouTube Channel soon and so is my co-writer, Jackson! Stay tuned for more updates.

P.p.s: I’ll be doing a post/video on electricity so0n!