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story-collider-science-communicationI recently had the privilege to open this years SpotOn Conference 2013 by being the first of six speakers at the fringe event: The Story Collider.

The Story Collider, according to Brian Wecht, provides anyone with a science story some space to tell it.

One caveat – the focus is emotional, rather than factual. So the point is to talk about things that have happened to you that are science/science, and to tell a story of how it changed you, or made you feel, and all those mushy things.

story-collider-science-communicationSo, I decided to tell a story.

My story starts with a young girl who is watching her younger sister swim. She didn’t like this one bit, and was getting jealous of her sister getting quicker. All this outsider business on the poolside wasn’t good enough. She wanted to be on the inside: in the pool, getting faster.

So, she joins a club and gets extremely passionate about swimming. So passionate in fact, that she gives up everything else to focus all her energies on it. And gets pretty good. She’s now on the inside.

Unfortunately, this girl became frustrated, bored and disillusioned by what swimming had to offer. She wasn’t learning anything new. She was just going up and down the same pool every day. She was hungry to learn new things. She didn’t like the inside of this world anymore.

So she gave up, and started studying physics. And boy was physics awesome – especially particle physics. She went to CERN, and as an outsider got to see the scientists preparing for the opening of the LHC. More than ever wanted to be on the inside, getting involved. So, she decided to throw all her energies into physics.

A few years later, whilst being an insider (working in a lab over several summers) she realises that being on the inside in physics was also not what she thought it would be. Although the science was cool, she wasn’t as excited by the laboratory work: it was too focussed on only one thing.

At this point, she realises that she is an outsider. She enjoys the energy, enthusiasm and curiosity of being an outsider. As an outsider, you get to ask questions that may seem silly to an insider, but can be eye-opening to an outsider.

And so that is what this girl does now: she asks questions, learns new things everyday, and is always enjoying it.


Slowly slowly I’m becoming more comfortable doing public speaking. The trick: just get on and do it.

Go to the orginal article here or listen below