I’d Like to Thank the Science Academy

Last night at the monthly Perimeter Institute public lecture, there were quite a few exciting events but three stand out.

First, the Perimeter Institute’s outreach team was given the Michael Smith award for excellent scientific outreach for a group from NSERC. Dr. Suzanne Fortier, president of NSERC, was there to award the medal to John Matlock, director of PI’s outreach.

“Science promotion should have two key elements: 1. to share relevant knowledge with citizens, and 2. to inspire the next generation of scientists,” said Fortier.

The second big event last night was a gift of $50 million from Mike Lazaridis, founder of RIM and main benefactor of PI. Mike spoke briefly in-between congratulations from various government officials.

“The world’s changing and we need to invest in the best and brightest if we are going to survive in the future,” said Lazaridis. He added later that “his greatest fear years ago had been that physics had become so complex that it would lose its impact with people’s lives.” Out of that fear came one of the world’s greatest scientific research organizations with an outstanding outreach program.

The third big announcement was that CTV will broadcast upcoming PI public lectures across the country in High Definition on the Discovery channel. Quite an improvement over local Rogers cable. Perhaps this increased interest will help pressure the Record to cover local science better.

After all the announcements, Bill Phillips (Nobel Prize for laser cooling in 1997) gave a fun lecture where he spilled many litres of liquid nitrogen.

The talks ended, and our local group of science writers headed over to the Black Hole Bistro for further schmoozing with dignitaries, scientists and other journalists. After a few glasses of wine and some great food, I spoke with Margaret Wente, columnist for the Globe and Mail, about the terrible state of science journalism in major news outlets.

With all the money and excellent scientific outreach, maybe the media will finally get it. Science is important to cover.


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