Ira Flatow, host of National Public Radio’s “Science Friday,” described how science has become “sexy” in America as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series at the Wisconsin Science Festival.
In front of a crowd of approximately 250 University of Wisconsin-Madison students and community members, Flatow argued science is undeniably becoming more popular in America and said there are “geeky” people everywhere: on television, the internet, appearing in science rock bands and wearing t-shirts that say “science is cool.”
“Science is the new sexy,” Flatow said. “I’m going to try to show you how even though our school systems, or whatever it may be, are failing us at teaching science, people are still learning.”
Flatow said this transition is evident because the public is learning more about science from television shows such as “Breaking Bad,” teen magazines and entertainment news than from school. He added that only 3 percent of the science an individual learns in their lifetime is learned in school.
“The entertainment industry discovered science is sexy and is making sure it’s followed by the public,” Flatow said.
Additionally, Flatow said while more women are involved in the science industry than ever before, the industry is constantly looking for ways to attract more women into the field.
“What’s the best way to portray women who we want to attract to science?” he asked. “Do we attract them from the ‘sexy’ side? From the ‘brainy’ side?”
Still, he said scientific issues remain generally under-represented in media outlets, and people continue to be largely uninformed on science as a whole.
“We get such little science in the media that it goes against what people actually want,” Flatow said.
University of Wisconsin-Madison student Samantha Wagner said Flatow created a good path for future discussion on scientific issues.
“I thought Ira did a great job bringing awareness to some of the issues we face as far as getting more women involved in science, how science is perceived in the media and how it’s perceived among the American population and things we can do to improve that perception,” Wagner said.
The Wisconsin Science Festival will continue through Sunday, and will take place both on campus, throughout Madison and in surrounding Wisconsin.