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Ira Flatow: Science is the new sexy

Written by Julie Jernigan

Ira Flatow visited VSU with a big bang.

Flatow, award-winning television journalist and host of National Public Radio’s “Science Friday,” spoke on why “science is the new sexy” in front of a full crowd on Feb. 21, as a part of Valdosta State’s first Presidential Lecture Series.

In his lecture, Flatow incorporated clips from popular shows, such as “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Colbert Report” and “The Simpsons” to show how science is gaining popularity through the entertainment industry.

Flatow said he found his love for science at a very young age when he almost burned down his mother’s bathroom by trying to recreate a biology experiment. He later founded the Science Initiative, a nonprofit company committed to produce television and internet programs that make science more user-friendly.

We are indeed honored to have a true difference maker to launch our Presidential Lecture Series,” VSU President Dr. Richard Carvajal said in his introductory speech.

Flatow gained laughs from the audience when he thanked Carl Sagan, who wore turtlenecks and had distinctive speech mannerisms, for making science sexy with his show, “Cosmos,” which at one time was the most watched television show in the world.

“If you want to talk about really difficult issues, you have to look toward popular culture or the entertainment industry,” Flatow said. “They understand that people are interested, so if you wanted to discuss global warming, you can find discussions all in there.”

He explained how the popularity of “The Big Bang Theory” led to the rise of many other shows, such as “Scorpion,” “Silicon Valley” and “Limitless.”

“The market is talking, but how do we know that science is really sexy?” Flatow asked. “When people who are not normally involved with science want to be involved in science.”

He elaborated on Seth McFarland, the creator of “Family Guy,” who helped “Cosmos” come back on the air because of his involvement with Fox.

Flatow also discussed the growing involvement of women in science, mentioning how Barbie, by popular demand, became a computer engineer sold with a laptop and headset.

At the end of his lecture, Flatow answered questions from the audience, which ranged from defining role models to the concept of universities teaching classes on how scientists should deal with the media.

“Your role model doesn’t have to be another scientist, but they just have to be someone who takes an interest in you and shows you the ropes on how to stay interested,” Flatow said. “Science should be made a discussion around the dinner table as much as sports and business.”

“We cannot now, especially in this atmosphere, give up on science,” Flatow said at the closing.

Dr. Carvajal thanked Flatow for showing the university the impact of power and knowledge and presented him with a parting gift.

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