Thursday 3 February 2011

The Big Bang v X Factor

I don’t usually listen much to statistics (I’ve massaged enough in my time) but something about the one I was sent yesterday rang alarm bells. When it comes to their children’s career choice apparently ten percent of parents would rather their children followed the TV talent route, rather than try for science or engineering.

WTF? Now X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent are guilty pleasures in The Bonkers House – Adrian won’t even be in the same room when they're on but James and I sit with a bag of popcorn between us and lap ‘em up. Only... Hmm. Maybe we’ll eschew the next series.

It seems science still has an image problem. A further ten percent of parents denigrate scientists and engineers as ‘geeks’ and over a third still see engineering as ‘man’s work’. Ye gods. Most weird of all is that, while a lot of parents say they would like their children to follow a scientific path, nearly 70 percent baulk purely because they don’t understand the fields.

WTF#2. My parents had NO idea about languages, yet it didn’t stop them encouraging me. C’mon people.

I have always cherished a small hope that James would consider science as a career. He’s good at it and, I dunno, is there anything more sexy and exciting than researching and understanding life – which is what science fundamentally is? He’s still hanging onto professional rugby player followed by corporate lawyer (aaaghhh) but, hey, there’s time yet.

And, in order to plant the seed, I may just take him to The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, this March in London. See – we need scientists, we need engineers. UK employers have huge difficulty recruiting the people they require. And, hand on heart, do we really need more Beyonces or Justin Biebers? Just sayin'...'s the plug.  The Big Bang Fair aims to “unleash the scientist from within” with 120 exhibitions and interactive activities.  It's aimed at all ages, from young children to school leavers. Plus there are live performances every day, including Wallace and Gromit with their “World of Invention” road show.

My top ten cool things you could do if you were a child (I have restrained from adding comments - you can imagine them for yourselves):

1. Discover how to weld big structures using chocolate.
2. Make your own earthquake.
3. Find out how the liquid crystals in an LCD TV can be used for bullet-proof vests.
4. Uncover the weird science behind sound with The Feel Good Vibrations workshop.
5.Take a look at your blood up close and visit a Stem Cell Lab of the Future.
6. Have a go at handling real bionic implants and uncover where they fit in your body.
7. Step inside the BodPod and discover your body shape and why what you eat matters.
8. Use pedal power to help generate electricity. Challenge your mates to see who can create the most energy.
9. Find out how algae can be used to produce hydrogen, electricity or other forms of green energy
10. Get behind the wheel of the latest McLaren innovations (yeah, James would LOVE that).

Then came a quote from Brian Cox, which rather puzzled me until I realized it wasn’t the actor (the original Hannibal Lector, of course) but the "funky" physicist.
‘The Big Bang exists to give young people and their parents a better understanding of how just fun and inspiring science and engineering can be,’ he says, in a rather unfunky way. ‘You can find out for yourself by visiting The Big Bang this March. It’s free to attend, and the ideal place to find out about the exciting career options out there.’

You tell ‘em, Brian. Except....oh come ON!  Tell 'em all about the really cool stuff, why don't you? 

Oh, for pity's I get the statistics.  Maybe science needs Simon Cowell.

The Big Bang takes place at ICC London ExCeL from 10-12 March 2011. Find out more by clicking here

Hmm, I know which one I prefer ;-)


Milla said...

Whe I'm saddened that T14 eschews books with a shudder, I am so proud of his prowess in science. He gets marks that I only got in reverse, so he'll get 92% where I was lucky to get 29%. Can any parent really NOT want to encourage in their child what makes that child buzz? Sure, share (or grimly, uselessly, foist) your own loves but let them discover stuff and, in the doing, maybe pick up something new yourself. Hey, I might even, finally, "get" valences. And I'm not talking 70s soft furnishings here.
And, get you! Hot photo in yesterday's blog!!

Exmoorjane said...

Ah, me too. Though, when I think back, I was actually not that bad at chemistry and got an A for biology GCSE (much to my teacher's shock). But Physics baffled me - which is odd, as now it fascinates me (but in an intuitive way - I can't do the math).
Yep, I agree totally about the buzz but so many parents want their children to be mini-mes... never quite get that.
Valences eh? You are SO talking soft can't kid me. :)
And, hmm, Selma - hot OLD photo in yesterday's blog.

Anonymous said...

Encouraging kids to be interested in science and maths is a great idea but it all depends on what they're interested in and, although I did all this, mine went on to study psychology and English at university. Not that I'm disappointed with that; I'm an arts graduate myself. But I work at a university that specialises in science, and I know that it's in these environments, where the solutions to the world's most pressing problems can be found. I guess it will just have to be someone else's kids who do it!

Sessha Batto said...

Lurch got an astounding 99% in chemistry last term (I say astounding because chemistry was the only class I ever failed in school). Does he want to be a scientist - hell no! He wants to be a chef. As an unemployed writer, who am I to argue? He has decided (in a far too adult manner IMO) that (1) he loves to eat & (2) everyone NEEDS to eat therefore he figures he can always get work. In his words - 'it's perfect mum, when times are good they eat to celebrate, when times are bad they eat to forget and, I'll never be unemployed like you ;)'

Exmoorjane said...

Has: yup, I totally agree..they need to follow their bliss..Just seems awful if they're maybe disinclining (??) their children through their own ignorance...

Sessh: well, I can't fault his logic... :) Hmm, mebbe I shouldn't have turned down the Jamie Oliver DVD competition after all. I honestly can't imagine ANYTHING worse than cooking *shakes at the thought* Well, okay, maybe filing.

Joanne said...

I would love the mini mr to be utterly geeky and science-ified (ever watched the Big Bang Theory?). Physics and maths fascinate me too, despite being completely unintelligible - the numbers seem to slide around in my head. Prof Cox, aside from being inappropriate crush material, is also so enthusastic about his subject, just like a child when they find something so utterly interesting that they want to do it all day every day. Mind you, I've felt that way about writing before, & the wee man will bring me book after book to read to him, so perhaps language and words are already the things.

But then there's no harm in being interested in all kinds of things, is there?

Exmoorjane said...

Jo: Way, hay! Two out of three on the blog can't be bad! Wistfully looks for nubby sacks...
Confess I had NO idea who Prof Cox was (except that I had a lecturer called that)...and, you know, he doesn't quite do it for me...but then, I'm a lot older than you. But, hey...this isn't about which Cox one prefers (so to speak), is it? Or is it? :-D
Renaissance child eh? I like that...a warrior geek poet would be cool. xxx

Miss Sadie said...

The science with which I'm most familiar is animal science. Whether farm animals, or animals in research. I barely have a scientific bone in my body; ethics is the thing I understand. But scientists and ethicists make a good team in exploring the wonders of the (inner — animal and human) world.

Alison Cross said...

I wish I'd been more interested in science when I was at school. Biology was my limit - the teachers were incredibly boring and I never got the chance to find out whether I was a whizz at chemistry or physics.

Tertarus is a Chief Engineer in the British Merchant Navy (what a small band of brothers that is these days!) so we've always got motorbikes, generators, cars and all other bits and bobs being delivered by less mechanically minded friends to be repaired,

I think it's AMAZING being able to understand what's wrong with machinery. I am in awe of his skills. But never tell him that!

Sonshine is equally deft with his hands and I sincerely hope that he's more interested in science than Bieberdom.

Thank GOD young Prof Brian Cox and things like The Big Bang Theory (have I got the right show?!) have got attractive, brilliant and utterly non-geeky presenters to keep it all sexy.

Ali x

Milla said...

You can't have missed Brian Cox?? Did series in the planets. Also, as part of D-ream recorded labour's song (1997)Things Can Only Get Better. This is not a Bob Holness / Baker St fact but a real one.
I only did environmental science (a fab combo of all 3 plus geol and astron) as I was so bad at science. Did Latin and Greek instead. And, er, that's O Level, miss, not bloody GCSE!!

Exmoorjane said...

Bear: yeah, I can see that.

Ali: did I ever tell you my (second) father was in the merchant navy? First was in the normal navy. It was cars for us - endless cars that he'd pull to bits and then put back again. He once did it with a VW Beetle for me - gave me the keys and a box of bits ("Not sure where those go"- oh great).
Hmm, see, I prefer old grizzled Brian to fleshy-lipped young Brian. I'm funny like that. :)

Milla: But I can and I did. I keep telling you (and you keep not believing me) that I don't watch TV (other than with James - hence X Factor, Simpsons, Top Gear etc). :)

Zo said...

Hmmm, I even did Physics at A level - now that really does make me a Geek - quite apart from the fact I am more fluent in computer languages, than I am English. Both my kids have gone all Arty on me, although, that was of their choosing. Tom's best GCSE grades were all science based, but he's successfully managed to combine his Art and science interests in his MA at RCA. His WIP at the current exhibition there is a House Robot, that bleeps and whinges and has hissy fits at his humans and lobs cat vomit around to register its displeasure!! ( Move over Damien, dead animals in formaldehyde and diamond encrusted infant skulls are so yesterday).

Robyn wanted to be a vet, until she realised she'd have to cut animals up. There's time yet for James to change his mind! Corporate Lawyer eh, well at least its not a desire to be an Estate agent! *ducks*

Exmoorjane said...

Zo!!! Yay! Ah, well yours are just uber-talented every which way... I'd forgotten you did Physics A level. Hmm....might give you a call next time James get stuck on his prep.. *waves*
Hmm, steady - I think at least two estate agents read this... ;)

Posie said...

Now I would be trailing them all along if we lived nearer to London and the weather wasn't so inclement in March...excuses excuses, but two of them will be sitting prelims then. Think eldest daughter is going to study Biology....she loves it, however her real passion is music. She composes music and writes her own lyrics as she jams away on the electric guitar, so that is what she really really wants to do (a bit safer than the show jumping career of last year...although she still has that on the back burner...) so hopefully it will be uni and a band....not via the X factor...I was completely hopeless at all sciences...:( so decided to be an actress instead lol

fairyhedgehog said...

My older son got a computer science degree, my younger son is doing an MSc in nanoengineering. (Nano something anyway - his first degree is Physics.)

I'm proud as can be.

We're all geeks in my family - geeks are good!

Oh, and we're probably not able to go to the Big Bang but the Science Museum was our favourite museum when the boys were young.


Love the idea of my son being captivated by science - which he is and for which I'm truly thankful - but not so sure about Brian Cox who got some of his basic astronomy wrong on Stargazers Live a couple of weeks ago and caused ructions in the Astrological Association by totally dissing astrology without any understanding of what it was about or any rational supportive argument. Is a tad too smug for my taste.

Yes, by all means encourage your kids to be interested in science, but for heaven's sake don't allow it to make them forsake the mystical side of life (I feel sure you won't, Jane).


Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I was totally hopeless at science at school (well physics really, got biology and quite liked the drama of chemistry). Now I think it is amazing and exciting if a bit of a leap of faith. For example I have a problem with hundreds of millions of years and being told with great certainty about amoebic life and the laying down of rock. How do they know anything at all about 300 million years ago? why should I believe that any more than creation theory? Oh hell, I have just gone off on one and undermined my whole position. Yes to science. No to the X factor (much).

Exmoorjane said...

Posie: I know, the London bit is a drag...AND most of it is during school time... doh! But will try...
I didn't know you were an actress! Or did I? *shakes head and wanders off in usual state of bemusement*

Fairy: Nanotech eh? Fascinating. Back in the 80s I started co-writing a book about 'Future Sex' and looked into nano a lot... ;)

LBD: I haven't actually seen Prof Cox in action but he looks a bit slimy to me. Forsake the mystical? Shit no. Science IS the mystical. BIG time. :)

EM: *laugh* go off on one, my darling... If you can't do it here, where else? Ah, what do we know? What do we REALLY know? We can't know anything (really)...can we, love? :)

Bumbling said...

*coughs* nothing wrong with corporate lawyers... well, commercial ones anyhow...

Loved science. And languages. Completely pulled me in opposite directions, so I went for law.


Parents should encourage their kids to have as wide an experience and enjoyment as possible. Science is *so* important!

Yvonne Johnston said...

I understand from my husband, who is a corporate lawyer, that many of his colleagues have a first degree in a scientific subject. Such is the battle for research funding that well qualified science graduates move to more lucrative occupations.

Michele Brenton said...

I have A'levels in Chemistry, Zoology and Physics, a degree in Computing & I am trained to teach Maths & Science.

Sprog is far more able than I ever was, yet has no qualifications at all. At 19 the ed system has failed him all the way down the line.

The only teachers who have supported him & the only pathway open to him at all practically is music - as it appears to be one of the few subjects that still attracts mentors who care more what a kid can do, than whether they 'fit' some grey uniform stereotype.

As it is he is facing a two year full time course as a mature student with at most £1,500 financial support for each year :(

It is going to be touch and go if we can manage to cope for two years like that. It is his last chance of an education.

Sprog would have loved to do science - but had no option to follow it as no lab facilities were available to him as a home schooled kid - even though he had some amazing computer simulations to play around with.

He once said to me when he was aged SIX - 'There is no such thing as falling is there Mummy? Just losing one's balance and becoming a victim of gravity.'

Sorry but I get very angry when I think of the potential chucked away by the school system. As long as we could pay for him to attend private education (and we managed for as long as we were able) he was catered for (although we had to put some effort in to liaising a lot even then) but the state system was completely antagonistic to dealing with someone educationally gifted together with having ADD - he was never hyper just easily distracted when bored - and you can imagine how easily a very bright kid gets bored.

So maybe many natural scientists are being filtered out by a system that does not cater for the classic Geek personality?

Suzie @keatsbabe said...

At school it was either science or humanities and I was most definitely humanities. But my daughter had ambitions to be a forensic scientist and although she now wants to be an Olympic High Jumper (rather different I appreciate) she still really enjoys the thrill of finding stuff out in biology lessons.I would defend the value of studying humanities to the hilt but suspect in the future science is where investment will be.Prof Brian Cox is to my daughter what Melvyn Bragg was to me in my teens. Clever crush material :-)