Bulletin of the American Physical Society
APS March Meeting 2023
Las Vegas, Nevada (March 5-10)
Virtual (March 20-22); Time Zone: Pacific Time
Session N15: Art meets Science (CIP & FOEP)
11:30 AM–2:30 PM,
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Room: Room 207
Sponsoring Unit: CIP
Chair: Maria Longobardi, University of Basel, Switzerland
Abstract: N15.00002 : Comedy as a Tool for Democratization of Knowledge
12:06 PM–12:42 PM
The laws of physics can explain how the world works, and how to make it better, but that isn’t much use if elitism and technobabble keep people from engaging with the science. Comedy provides an ideal toolkit to make physics more accessible, physicists more relatable, and to lower barriers between cutting edge scientific research and the public who fund it.
This talk explores comedic approaches to communicating physics in the interdisciplinary environment of Bright Club Ireland, a research comedy project which has run over a hundred live events in Ireland and online since 2015. We show that an informal live comedy event can engage audiences with even the most arcane academic research, by making remote and technical subjects relatable and bringing humanity into the equation. Speakers are trained using techniques from theatre and improvisation to tell the story of their work, and participation in Bright Club affects both their disciplinary identity and their motivation to participate in other public engagement events. Admitting that the objective, external researcher is a myth and allowing in real research voices drive multidirectional engagement between physicists, other researchers, and many publics.
The performing arts centre different ways of knowing than the sciences traditionally rely on, helping new and diverse audiences from pubs, fringe festivals, and music festivals to connect to physics. This is especially critical as we address societal challenges that require not only scientific innovation, but broader understanding and uptake of scientific advances. Comedy and other artistic approaches are powerful antidotes for elitism and siloed knowledge, for physicists and the public alike.
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