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November 8, 2009

cartoons and science

History of science manga. Really. There's a whole series (well, of historical figures, a few happen to be scientists inventors). See the large-eyed child Einstein? I also love how in the Einstein as young man pictures, they manage an illusion to the sorts of images of old-Einstien we all know so well.

baby manga-Einsteinyoung man manga-Einstein

Found at the museum-shop at the Exploratorium. I also managed to pick up a few Max Axiom comics - big in the USA, haven't really figured over in Blighty yet. These feature a super-hero scientist (the Max Axiom of the title), thus applying a *completely* different culture of comics-style illustration to science communication from the Horrible books (Axiom really is a super-hero scientist in a superman mould. The much more British Horrible Science would just take the piss out of such an image). You can't con me with your pic of a semi-naked hunk, you're talking about the importance of variables.

Max Axiom

To finish on a slightly more conventional type of science in cartoons (i.e. fictional science stories), I saw a great talk from Bryan Talbot at the London Comica Festival this weekend. Talbot was talking about his new book Grandville, a historical scientific detective romance, with badgers: a sort of mix of steampunk and comic art's tradition for anthropomorphic-animal characters. In the talk Talbot discussed several of his key influences, which included Beatrix Potter, Rupert the Bear and Wind in the Willows. (I should add that it is a 'grown-ups' book, even if he does draw upon kid's media.) One of the points I found especially interesting was that, with Grandville, Talbot seems to be juxtaposing a steampunk aesthetic for technology with (via the anthropomorphic animals) more Romantic aesthetics of nature in children's literature. However, I asked Talbot if this was intentional, and he said it wasn't. He also emphasised the rather un-romantic way Beatrix Potter saw nature (e.g. Tying up kittens for accurate drawings. Talbot knows about Potter, see his Tale of One Bad Rat). All interesting stuff. The Comica festival goes on till the 26th of November.

November 4, 2009

Update: Research on Climate Change

A quick update on this post (about research cited in climate change ad).

I emailed the Department for Energy and Climate Change suggesting I might put in a freedom of information request for the data. The reply was again speedy and helpful, and yet missing the point. They directed me to a much larger piece of research into public attitudes towards the environment. As the guy emailing me suggests, this is more detailed and in many ways more useful to me. I'm thankful for the link. But, I still don't see why the small scale Yougov survey remains hidden from public view? I emailed a reply saying so. I'll post more if I get more.

I'd also like to underline that I am, personally, broadly in agreement with a lot of the DECC campaign. I am in no way a climate change sceptic, in fact I find such people a bit worrying. I don't have a problem with politicising climate science (indeed, I think we should acknowledge the politics of it). Further, have no real problems with the notion of government PR, environmental or otherwise. I just want it to be good campaigning which respects its audience, not 9 out of 10 cats stuff. I also think this sort of government data should be open.

Update to the update (13:40, 4th Nov) - two more emails from the DECC. Credit where credit is due: they've submitted my email as an official FOI request and an offer to discuss the work over the phone. Good stuff.

Update to the update (11:10, 6th Nov) - Just had very interesting, useful, intelligent and (most important) open phone conversation with a DECC press officer. She clarified that they had no problem emailing me the survey (it is already in my inbox) - any appearence of it being hidden was just the marketing team being careful. She was happy to admit that the small yougov survey in question was entirely commissioned for PR purposes (still over 1000 respondents, so in area of credible national research, but basically designed to produce newsworthy information).

So, yes I'm right that it's '9 out of 10 cats' style stats for PR, but (a) they are open about this, (b) they had built the advert itself on more detailed research conducted over the previous eight months, and (c) this smaller yougov piece simply aimed to draw out talking points. Personally, I'm quite happy with the use of slightly rough social stats to inspire debate. As long as it doesn't replace more detailed work or present itself as something it's not. After this morning's conversation with the DECC press officer, I don't think it was either.