Although I agree with the points Rudy Baum raises in the editorial “Science Communication,” I consider the problem to be more profound (C&EN, May 28, page 5). The public figures of society today are actors, singers, sports figures, top models, and so-called famous people. This fashion is strongly imposed by the media. In film, scientists are often presented as nerds or as evil.
With this as background, the public doesn’t understand that science is the most important component of the productive forces that move our society. Additionally, science is the most important component of contemporary culture: If one is ignorant of science, one is not cultivated. But this ignorance is in part a result of deficient coverage by the media of scientific events and scientists.
One example of the coverage given to scientists by the media is the photo of Albert Einstein showing his tongue. The image is that he was a bit crazy. Einstein was not just a great scientist, he was also a philosopher, politician, and activist. In this regard, he published several books about scientific divulgence, Hitler ordered his death, he was offered the presidency of Israel, and he urged President Franklin D. Roosevelt to build the first nuclear weapon. Nevertheless, some people remember Einstein as the “crazy old man.”
Niels Bohr escaped from Denmark to England in a small boat under the protection of the English secret services during World War II. I’m sure that Werner Heisenberg and Max von Laue, who were involved in Nazi Germany’s nuclear program, deceived the Gestapo to ensure its failure. My certainty is derived from the fact that Heisenberg was cleared in one day of interrogation in London after his capture in Germany by Allied troops in 1945.
By Rolando M. A. Roque-Malherbe
Las Piedras, PR