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Thursday, 23 August 2012

Science, Art and Economics.

It’s been a couple of weeks since our physics intern (Jon Cheyne) finished his internship with us, and all in all it’s been a great experience for us - both working with SEPnet (a consortium of seven world-class universities in SE England) and with Jon himself. The work he did interviewing physics researchers at QMUL about the Things We Don’t Know is invaluable. I’m really pleased that Jon wants to maintain a relationship with us in the future, too.

If you’ve missed any of his great blog updates I highly recommend them all. We’d never have learned the Northern Lights make noises; that scorpions glow in UV light; or that the atmosphere of the sun is a thousand times hotter than the surface below it without his posts. Of course, those posts were just the tip of the iceberg for Jon. In fact, the knowledge Jon gained about ongoing scientific research in a wide variety of fields nicely mirrors one of our goals, which is why we're working directly with students.

Things We Don't Know wants to explain all the mysteries of science, not just a handful. We also want to explain them to everybody, not just scientists. Jon's day to day task was writing about as many open questions (which we call "Things") as he could, and putting them all into our database. We're combining related Things to create interesting articles, which anybody can read. But these articles will be more than just fascinating stories - we're adding features to turn them into an interactive repository that is useful to students, scientists, and journalists too. In the case of students like Jon who wish to go into research, we want to help them make the right choice about what research question to focus on - and where to do it.
Once we feel we have enough of these articles written, the site will go live.

We’re very keen to offer others the opportunity to gain some new skills and experience in science communications, and help us to build our database through internships in the future – if you’re interested either in helping to fund an internship or taking part in one, get in touch with our recruitment department.

In other news, I’m currently jumping on a plane to Zurich every few weeks to meet up with the guys running an arts project we’ve been chosen to take part in. It might be surprising to hear the words "art project" from a site dedicated to science, but there's method in our madness! Thom Reinhard and Monika Truong’s project "Invest In Me!" brings together venture capitalism, crowdfunding, and theatre.

Thom Truong's "Invest In Me!" logo
Image: Thom Truong

If you're familiar with the TV show "Dragon's Den", and probably even if you're not, the idea of an entrepreneur pitching to investors almost certainly conjures up a very specific image in your mind: an entrepreneur standing in front of a few rich people behind a desk, possibly using a projector screen with a presentation on it to "sell" their vision.

What if you threw away this standard pitch, replaced it with one written by dramaturges and playwrights, had the entrepreneur trained by actors, and put them onto the theatre stage? As a part of the Freischwimmer festival, this is exactly the experiment Thom Truong are conducting.

They have brought together five social enterprises from different parts of Europe, and we're happy to announce that we're one of them. We'd love to see as many of our fans at the event as possible. A full schedule of events will be posted on their website and facebook. We'll be speaking about our vision to audiences in Germany, Austria and Switzerland - and challenging each audience to help us make it a reality.