I'm a Scientist get me out of here is aptly named. By Thursday on the second week I was - on balance - more relieved than disappointed to be evicted from the virtual jungle clearing, called the Chlorine Zone, that I'd been sharing with four other scientists. (Beyond the eviction thing the analogy with I'm a Celebrity breaks down. We five were not required to undertake challenges designed to freak-out the squeamish nor rewarded with discomfort reducing morsels.)
No. I'm a Scientist is an altogether more civilised affair. It's a direct engagement with school children; meet-the-scientist on-line in which school children can ask the scientists questions on more or less anything they like. There are two types of engagement, chat and ask. The live chat sessions are booked by teachers and scheduled during school science lessons - a bit like having a panel of scientists sitting at the front of the classroom answering questions, except it's on-line. Ask allows the children to submit their questions through the web page for the scientists to answer in their own time. Both types of engagement are moderated by the good people who run I'm a Scientist.
Why then - if I'm a Scientist is so wonderful (which it is) - was I relieved to be evicted? Well, it's because after nearly 2 weeks the questions just keep coming and trying to keep up (especially given that we all have day jobs) became, if I'm completely honest, something of a test of endurance. Not counting the live chat school sessions I answered about 175 questions altogether. Other I'm a Scientist scientists who read this will scoff and say "pah, only 175!". And they'd be right - Sarah Thomas in my zone answered over 300 questions, and the awesome David Pyle in the potassium zone around 600! But even my paltry 175 questions took I reckon about 30 hours to answer, at an average 10 minutes per question (which is going fast).
But I'm not going to whinge here about my inability to keep up (although I do strongly advise future I'm a Scientists to set aside plenty of question answering time). I really want to reflect on the questions themselves. Firstly I was slightly surprised there were so few on my specialist subject of robotics. Only 22 out of the 175. But they were good ones! Here are some of my favourites:
- Do you think that us humans could ever start turning like robots and get all high tech like robots?
- Do you believe truly that robots can be just like a human? Do they have all of the 5 senses?
- Would it be possible to train/build a robot that is able to fight in wars?
- Will your research help understand how our brain works?
- Do you think the idea of a graviton is stupid?
- How likely is it that there are other life forms like us?
- Atoms and particles act in probabilistic ways and our brain is made up of atoms and particles, so is there such thing as free will?
By far the biggest category of questions was about doing science: why and how you do science, what's the best thing about being a scientist, what you think you have achieved, or will achieve and so on (and quite a few on what you will do with the prize money if you win). These are great questions because they allow you to explode some myths about science: for instance that you have to be super smart to do science, or that one scientist can change the world on their own. I was especially flattered by
Here are some great blog posts from other March 2011 I'm a Scientists:
Suzie Sheehy's Reflections on I'm a Scientist
David Pyle's I'm a Scientist: 600 questions later
I'm a Scientist and I'm out of here