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Friday, January 20, 2006

Science bad; Science good

As someone involved (albeit currently peripherally) in the scientific education of young people I found this report to be very depressing:

Among those who said they would not like to be scientists, reasons included: "Because you would constantly be depressed and tired and not have time for family", and "because they all wear big glasses and white coats and I am female".

and this:

The number taking A-level physics dropped by 34% between 1991 and 2004, with 28,698 taking the subject in that year.

The decline in numbers taking chemistry over the same period was 16%, with 44,440 students sitting the subject in 1991, and 37,254 in 2004.

The number of students taking maths also dropped by 22%.

Don't ask me why they mention maths, I know its not a real science...

Seriously though, it is very depressing, especially the fact that kids just don't think science is for them. I guess the question becomes who do they think will provide future scientists? Where are all these really brainy people they think will be the scientists?

On the other hand this news was particularly pleasing:
The US space agency (Nasa) successfully launched its New Horizons mission to Pluto on Thursday.

The probe lifted off at 1900 GMT aboard an Atlas 5 rocket on a 10-year journey to the planet, some five billion km (three billion miles) from Earth.

We have not been to Pluto before. Unfortunately for us it means a single flyby since we cannot place the satellite into orbit. Still it is exciting.

Funnily enough, the moon was used to provide the initial kick of acceleration. It took 9 hours to reach the moon. Contrast that with the 3 days it took the Apollo astronauts. Sometimes there are real benefits to unmanned space exploration. Of course it is still a shame that we have not yet returned to the moon. Maybe soon...

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