Pune: Dumbing down is a wrong approach to learning science, opined Dr Jen Gupta, British Indian Astrophysicist and a science communicator, who was in Pune for a lecture organised by British Council.
“Scientific jargon is always a huge problem. One needs to constantly think about alternative ways to make a non-specialist understand a scientific concept. I also prefer to carry practical demonstrations,” Gupta said, adding, “But I do not shy away from complicated concepts. I do not think we need to dumb it down too much. People are smart enough to grasp these concepts.”
Talking about the need for astronomy and related sciences, Gupta said, “Astronomy not only is born out of mankind’s curiosity, but also gives us a new perspective and tells us how insignificant we are in the scheme of things,” adding, “But it also gives us a reason to be proud at how much we have been able to do, understand and learn.”
Gupta thinks that science fiction is also a very important tool that drives scientific innovation. “I am not much of a Star Trek fan, but a Star Wars fan. If you talk to many of those, who are a part of the scientific community, you will see that science fiction made them turn towards these fields.”
She said, “Many of the things that were imagined or conceptualised in science fiction, for example, touchscreens and communicators were imagined in Star Trek, pushed scientific innovation towards inventing them.”
Target and result
Gupta said that there is a focus on results and syllabus targets in the UK. “The teachers there are under a lot of pressure to complete the syllabus. They do not find time to innovate in teaching. Which is why science communication is needed,” Gupta said, adding, “The sense that I got while going around to different institutes in India is that there is a huge hunger for knowledge in the students. The questions that they asked were profound and sometimes difficult for even me. I was impressed with their knowledge.”
Talking about her tour in India, Jen Gupta said that even though she was born and raised in the United Kingdom (UK), she has been visiting India for personal and professional reasons. “My series of programmes is like a tour. I have been to Ahmedabad and will leave for Raipur and then Delhi after the programme in Pune.
Universe is a mystery
The next frontier of research, according to Gupta, lies in answering the question of the composition of the universe. “If we consider our knowledge, by our estimates, only 4 per cent of the universe actually is matter. The matter that we are made up of 26 per cent of it might be made of dark matter, which we can detect, but cannot see. The rest, we assume, is dark energy. I think research related to this and the search for possible intelligent alien life would be our next discovery,” Gupta said.