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ACTOR ALAN ALDA TRAINS SCIENTISTS TO TALK TO THE PUBLIC USING IMPROV

Actor Alan Alda delivers a plenary lecture at the AAAS annual meeting in Chicago.

Actor Alan Alda delivers a plenary lecture at the AAAS annual meeting in Chicago.

Crowd control is not usually an issue at scientific meetings. But actor Alan Alda’s plenary talk at the an Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting earlier this month was an exception. Ten minutes before the scheduled start time, the ballroom was well beyond capacity and sentries began turning away hordes of disappointed scientists. I slipped inside just as the doors were closing and got one of the last seats on the floor.

In his talk, Alda explained how scientists can “get beyond a blind date” with the public, transforming jargon-laden, impersonal explanations of their work into engaging stories told in plain yet accurate language. He created the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University to give scientists hands-on training in how to communicate more effectively with the public. Alda showed us video clips of one technique that he uses to help scientists connect more strongly with their audience: improvisational theatre. After undergoing the improv training, which teaches students to be more aware of their own bodies and of the people around them, the scientists’ were much better at explaining their work in vivid and more relatable ways.

Read more about Alda’s lecture and find out about his Flame Challenge on the AAAS website, watch the improv training in action, or watch a New York Times interview with Alda.

GET INVOLVED WITH CITIZEN SCIENCE PROJECTS

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Thanks to the power of the internet, now anyone can participate in scientific research! Fill out an online survey to help scientists track influenza trends. Contribute to a better understanding of the environmental impact of light pollution by using a smartphone app to measure the light pollution in your city. Upload a video of you and Fido playing to help psychologists learn about dog behavior. Scientific American’s list Citizen Science Projects has hundreds to choose from!

SEEING THE BRAIN WITH CLARITY

Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature News 498(1744):151 copyright 2013

Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature News 498(1744):151 copyright 2013

A study published online today in the journal Nature describes a new technique neuroscientists are using to visualize the brain. Using a series of chemical treatments termed CLARITY, researchers are able to make brain tissue nearly transparent, enabling them to visualize its inner molecular workings in an unprecedented way. Read more and watch a beautiful video here.