Paleonet: Outreach for public science literacy

Mark Storaasli mstoraasli at
Thu Jun 2 01:37:50 UTC 2011

Dr. Ward,

  I will suggest that 'science outreach' is a doomed cause if it fails at
the level of
kindergarten-age students. My 5-year old grand daughter's response to Public
Broadcasting System's natural history programming ensures that she will read
the books that you would like to see her reading, including your own, which
will recommend. Our fascination with the molluscan Order Cephalopoda has not

yet fruited, but we are constantly reminded that house cats make many more
mistakes than a typical octopus would be allowed to!

  If you're not into rock, sand & dirt, pond scum, butterflies & people at
age 3 it's
likely that nothing except numerical/systematic paleontology will ever feel
to the mathematician whiz-kids you imagine? much for collecting rocks!
will have no choice, except to buy them at Tucson!

  Somebody should re-write *The Earth For Sam* maybe a U.S.G.S. project for
free distribution in multiple copies to any worldwide libraries?

~Mark Storaasli

On Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 11:48 AM, <argo at> wrote:

> At the risk of totally undermining whatever shred of reputation I still
> have in being a “real” paleontologist, I would like to make two suggestions.
>  First, we all know that science literacy in this country is abysmal.
> Therefore, the outreach we and other scientists are doing (but most often
> not doing) is not working.  I advocate two new approaches.  First, I learned
> a great deal of science reading the great science fiction novels of the 50s
> and 60s.  We could have an equivalent in video games.  As father of a 14
> year old, I can tell you that kids of that age will spend unlimited time on
> games if given the chance.  It would be good to get together at GSA and talk
> about new ways of getting our paleo message out – including video games.  A
> game of evolution where mass extinction sweeps you back to the start of the
> game is a natural.  Secondly, in frustration at my meager book sales, my
> 17th book for the public is a novel.  It is set in both South Africa and the
> Tucson gem and mineral show, and involves the tension between academic
> paleontologists (and museum curators, who now have to compete for specimens
> without funds to compete with) and professional fossil collecting companies
> – as well as the current best guess about the cause of the Permian
> extinction, and the marks it left in the Karoo.  The hero (heroine) is a
> paleontologist.  I am happy to send a PDF of this 105k-word effort to anyone
> who would like to critique it.  There is no publisher yet.  In the course of
> this effort it became clear to me that a great volume of Uranium found in
> Africa was deposited at the PT boundary as a direct result of continental
> denudation in the mass extinction itself.  This is certainly the case for
> the Niger “yellowcake” which sent us into Iraq, as well as other PT boundary
> deposits.   The Permian extinction thus extending into our time, this time
> as hydrogen bombs.
> Professor Peter D Ward
> Dept of Biology
> The University of Washington
> Seattle, 98195
> 206-543-2962  ( Office )
> _______________________________________________
> Paleonet mailing list
> Paleonet at
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Paleonet mailing list