Science at the heart of podcast

Taking its lead from the recent Edinburgh International Science Festival, the latest Big Idea Podcast looks at how science is at the heart of everything.

Three academics, who appeared at various festival events, share their insights into how technology changes our ability to learn, what effect the media has on science, and the uncanny similarities between artists and scientists.

Smarter phones, smarter people?

In March the Westminster government announced that from 2016 it would ban calculators from primary school tests. Extra marks would also be deducted for poor spelling, with texting on phone blamed for a decline in standards. The decisions betrayed a long-held suspicion that relying on technology stunts learning.

Dr Mark Sprevak, lecturer in the philosophy of mind and cognition, argues that the reality is quite the opposite. Far from being the bane of learners, new technology is actually a boon.

Dr Sprevak explains some of the theories why numeracy and literacy skills seem to correspond to the use of calculators and phones.

When the media and science collide

The media play an important role in the public and political understanding of science. Its influence can be seen in how, for example, genetically modified crops or the MMR vaccine are portrayed.

Professor Joyce Tait, director of the Innogen Institute, outlines the dynamics of this incredibly important and frequently fractious relationship.

An artist and a scientist – spot the difference

Since the Enlightenment the two spheres of science and the arts have drifted further and further apart, developing into quite separate disciplines.

Which makes Ian Sharman’s project, The SCART Connection, intriguing. Through it Sharman, a PhD student at Edinburgh College of Art, has brought together scientists and artists within the University in the hope of rebuilding bridges between the disciplines.

He reveals some of the projects findings, from collaborations between particle physicists and product designers, to the realisation that the scientific and artistic processes are closer than you think.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea Podcast is a monthly show featuring academics discussing contemporary issues and sharing their research and expertise.

Previous shows have looked at Russian nationalism, explored human migration, and debated the plans for Scottish independence.

As well as being an accessible way for the public to hear about the University’s work, the Big Idea is also a forum for academics to meet colleagues from different parts of the institution, share ideas, and gain media training in a studio setting.

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