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Sperimentando 2007 April 7, 2007

Posted by dorigo in games, internet, news, personal, physics, science.

The sixth edition of an interactive scientific exhibition, “Sperimentando” (experimenting) will be held in Padova from April 23rd to May 20th at the “Ex-Macello”, in Via Cornaro.

The exhibition is free and it is addressed primarily to middle and high-school students. There are also selected parts suitable for primary school children. I brought my son to the exhibition two years ago, but it was too much to grasp for a six-years-old kid. I will bring him again this year, and maybe he will be more interested…

Experiments of Physics, Chemistry and other sciences are featured. The visitor can play with the instrumentation, and teachers and guides are available to describe the featured material and its use.

Along with the exhibit, several seminars are in program. Please visit http://sperimentando.lnl.infn.it for more information and for a detailed calendar.


1. jeff - April 7, 2007

Hi Tommaso
I’ll be going too! Maybe we will bump into one another there. I am interested but, to be completely honest, I am alo more than skeptical.

I think too much money is spent is these types of cultural activities that should have been devolved directly to research and basic science in the first place. This is especially true in Italy where I really think these hypocritical attempts to interest the vast public and the vast armies of “students” in Science do no not work at all. Someone should be scientific about it. Is the number of students that get interested in science after having visitied these types of exhibilits really significant or can one just collect “noisy” ancedotes? Would the students that enroll in science studies have done so anyway regardless of having wasted money in these exhibits? (null hypothesis). I bet the students that like these exhibits are those that where already interested in science to begin with. The vast number that don’t care will not be budged from their indifference.

Real tax payer’s money is thrown down the drain just to make politicians make publicity for themselves. When it really comes to getting real money for real science the politicians just disappear and show their real inconsitency! But I go anyway to the exhibit. I like learning new things.

2. dorigo - April 10, 2007

Hi Jeff,

in your message above I see lots of the cynical attitude of the manager of a private company, who directs resources only where their impact is tangible, direct, and immediate.

On the contrary, the diffusion of knowledge is a quite more ethereal, indirect, and slow process. You need to have a broad spectrum of offers to captivate the public. Sperimentando offers a different day of fun for families with children, even small ones, and the experience can stick to the mind of the young ones. I was there two years ago with Filippo, and although he was much too young then (6), he still remembers with awe a few things now. I will bring him there this year along with a few of his friends, because at 8 kids are already much more sensitive to science and experiments.

I do not think it is a waste of money… There are worse wastes in physics research IMO.


3. jeff - April 10, 2007

Ciao Tommaso. I fear I don’t agree.

Is money wasted in research? Of course, but that is not a worthy defense of psuedo-cultural activities. Your defending so-called cultural activities is too generic. And who decides what is cultural? The organizers? The particpants? Those that like it? Some so-called intellectual? Too self-referential. Not very objective.

I don’t like cynical people either. Infact I am fed up (stufo) with the cynical attititudes of politicians and psuedo-educators in Italy. Is having priorities cynical? I don’t think so! Resources are limited, especially in Italy where cynicism abounds at all levels and continues to florish.

But apart from limited resources I really do feel that this approach to communicating science is not only useless (am I beng cynical?), but it is WRONG! (am I being cynical?). Teaching science is difficult and the first lesson you learn is that humans are not scientifically inclined at all. In particular, not everyone is cut out for it, and even those that manage to be scientific are never immune from relapsing into more typical human ways of thinking. I am not speaking of intelligence! Those that do not appreciate science are not stupid! The real enemy of science is not simple ignorance, that of the uneducated, but that more dangerous variety which is the ingorance of the educated , of those that think they know, that think they know what is important, that think what other think is wrong or of a lower quality,…. These science exhibits and museum do nothing to address this problem. They suffer from an original sin: they ignore human nature! The mass-education approach that is implicit in exhibits is wrong because it doesn’t account for human nature, The science exhibit doesn’t concieve that humans are not scientific, that science is a very recent (in history), rare and delicate human activity. It is extraordinary that science arose and it is very likely it will subside.

I started fearing that showing natural phenomenon in museum exhibits is not teaching science when I visited the famed Exploratorium in San Francisco. I simply saw hordes of children tinkering here and there, breaking things, running around, just having fun making confusion without any real hope of understanding anything, regardless of the presence of inspired teachers. Maybe one child in a 100 develops interest in science. But was this because they visited the Exploratorium? No. Those that go into science are those that have certain personality traits. And personality is something that you don’t learn in school or in a musuem. The best an educator can do is to spot (screen) those types of students in school and encourage them to leave the main flow and give them opportunities. The rest will have other talents (music, arts, law, medicine, politics, sports, you name it). They should be given other opportunities. Then there are those, the vast majority, that will tragically never develop any talent. But it would be a tragic mistake to dilute the chances of helping real talents by spreading too thin limited resources in useless cultrual activities.

4. Chase - April 11, 2007

These types of activities are not only about encouraging future scientists, but also about encouraging in non-scientific types some kind of appreciation for science. It is not the scientists who have to be convinced that their tax dollars should support scientists… it’s the public at large. I would not be quick to dismiss a fun day at the science museum or the Sperimentando event Tommasso is discussing. Maybe 1 child in 100 becomes a scientist, but maybe 1 of the other 99 becomes a Senator (he or she is sure to become a taxpayer!). We scientists are well-served to do what we can to make sure that kid shares in the wonder of science, on whatever level that can happen.

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