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Can this man 'Save Our Science'?..

Last week it was announced the mathematician, Marcus Du Sautoy, would replace Richard Dawkins as Oxford University's ‘Chair for the Public Understanding of Science'. This title has been held by Dawkins for over a decade and he has used it as a platform to pitch science against religion in a battle of reason. However, having seen Du Sautoy’s more measured delivery in his recent programmes, might we now have someone who can benefit the electrical industry?

Marcus Du Sautoy

It has been hard to avoid Richard Dawkins during his tenure as the Simonyi Chair, and this should give an indication as to the importance and power of the position. It is by far the highest profile academic post given to the communication of science to the public in this country and as Dawkins has proven, it is a position from which public debate can be influenced.

But whereas Dawkins has been very narrow in his subject matter, concentrating mainly on genetics, biology and his distrust of all things religious, Marcus Du Sautoy has the makings of someone who can spark some interest in the sciences as a whole through his remarkable enthusiasm for their core subject; maths.

Maths and electrical engineering have a close relationship through areas such as trigonometry, differentiation and calculus. So, someone who can help remove the fear of such words will go a long way to making the decision to embark on a career in the industry a much easier one.

It’s my belief that a poor standard of maths and physics teaching over the last few decades has, in part, lead to the problems we face with the Engineer skills shortage. The subject needs real passion and conviction from a teacher in order to make it palatable, and that seems to be something that is lacking in schools at the moment. In fact, it was revealed earlier this year that less than half of the maths teachers in our secondary schools have studied maths to degree level. This can’t be a good position to be in, and will have a knock on effect by making students less confident with other subjects that require a good basis of mathematical skill.

Hopefully the introduction of Marcus Du Sautoy to the Oxford professorship will begin a process of de-mystifying maths in the minds of youngsters. He certainly seems to have a knack for explaining complex things simply, as anyone who saw his 2006 Christmas Lectures will have noticed. But more than anything, I hope he can impart some of his real enthusiasm for the subject and show properly how it can be applied to real world situations, as opposed to the mind-numbing ‘Peter has six chickens…’ riddles that have switched so many minds off maths in the past. Then we can look forward to our engineering industry in the UK being in safe hands for many years to come.

Enjoy the newsletter,

Richard Scott

Your Comments:


Having just read your article “Can this man 'Save Our Science'?.” I thought I would share an anecdote I heard a while ago on the radio which to me highlighted how important it is to introduce science to new students in a way that is interesting and makes them think as well.

I’m not entirely sure but if I recall correctly the interviewee was a comedian, possibly from the Now Show, who was also very interested in science and technology and he was explaining how his interest in science first started. At his first physics lesson at school the teacher asked all the class to put one hand on the bench and the other on the gas tap. He than asked them to say what they noticed and of course they replied that the gas tap was colder than the bench. That’s odd, the teacher said, the bench and the gas tap have both been in this room for over forty years and you would think that by now they would both be at the same temperature.

It is things like this that I believe show that science is about understanding the truth about what is actually going on in the world, or universe, around us, because what we first perceive isn’t always the truth. To me a big part of teaching science is about making people interested in asking questions and only be satisfied with the answers if there is robust evidence to support those answers.

Kind regards

Nick Cook
Technology Analyst / Electronics Engineer

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