Science Fiction Attracts Students to a Greater Degree; UNIVERSITY OF GLAMORGAN: Astronomer Reckons the Spin-Off Value of Films and Stories Will Take Would-Be Scientists into the Future
GETTING youngsters interested in science is a serious business.
With a dull, boring image, there has been an annual drop in interest from pupils studying at A-level.
But a university is trying to buck the trend by showing students what can be gained through a science degree in the modern world.
At the University of Glamorgan, the first crop of students to graduate with a BSc in Science and Science Fiction are bravely entering their new world.
Professor Mark Brake believes his students are at the forefront of expressing the significance of science.
He said, ``We thought, if you were going to produce graduates who were going to communicate science to the public, you have to be aware that the public image of science is vastly more influenced by science fiction than it is by any other notion they may have.
``They are more likely to be watching The Matrix, Frankenstein, or reading Brave New World, than they are to have read any dry and dusty textbooks.''
One of his students has won the attention of Nasa.
Carlos Oliveira came from Portugal to Pontypridd to take the degree.
Nasa were so impressed with his ability to engage and excite the imaginations of lay audiences they recruited his talents.
He said, ``The degree taught me new and exciting ways of presenting science in education.''
Prof Brake is convinced his course is doing more than equipping future teachers and lecturers to make science fun.
He thinks serious examination of films and literature about science provides a crucial ``social, ethical and political'' context to the contemporary search for new knowledge. He said, ``Science in university can be very uncritical and unthinking. Science fiction voices the concerns. ``It is time for a new revolution in science. Time for a new type of science degree; one that challenges science's alleged impartiality and objectivity.''
Elite educators at the University of Sorbonne in Paris recently invited Prof Brake to discuss his pioneering work.
Senior lecturer Martin Griffiths is convinced the topics raised in the course are so important they must be debated in the public arena.
He said, ``People see science as being difficult, full of abstractions and hard to understand. Yet no-one can afford to leave science to the boffins.
``Issues arising from genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and cloning will affect our lives, and they are all dealt with in science fiction. If young people can learn about these issues via science fiction, they will be more informed about issues and choices in later life. …