TED Conversations

Yu-An Chen


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Why don't we have more "Kitchen" scientists?

When people hear the word "Science", they often think of fancy labs with high technology equipment, and this is not too far off-- In my Bioelectricity class, for example, we learned about patch clamp experiments, which use tiny electrical recorders called micropipettes to record electrical currents from single ion channels in cells, and the voltage clamp experiments performed by Hodgkin and Huxley, in which they managed to thread wires through a single axon! These experiments, and a lot of other important experiments outside this field, require a lot of expensive machinery, chemicals and facilities. But does science always have to be a luxury? For example, instead of using expensive fish-eye lens for photography experiment, we could simply buy a much cheaper door viewer to get the same barrel distortion effect. Or you can go online and buy kits to record from brains, or if you live in New York City, you can join the community laboratory called GenSpace, take workshops, trainings, or can work on our own projects!

How do you think we can help science become more accessible to everyone? The more people, both amateur and professional, who contribute to science, the more ideas will be created!


Closing Statement from Yu-An Chen

Thank you all for the comments and suggestions. I got to know a lot of new resources by going through the comments. It seems like most people will be glad to see more kitchen scientists. We can start with turning off TV and explore more about the world. Science is all around us, if one has the heart, anyone can become a kitchen scientist.

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    Feb 13 2012: Space exploration offers a huge number of ways for the public to participate in science and scientific exploration, via their computer and an internet connection. Every photo from every NASA mission since the Mariners flew past Mars is available for download from NASA websites, and by browsing through them you can feel like you're riding along with the robotic spacecraft, exploring other worlds. The Opportunity Mars rover and Cassini Saturn orbiter actually post all photos on the Web as soon as they come to Earth -- you can go see what those spacecraft are exploring right now, and you could actually see the photos before the science teams do! Nowadays, spacecraft return so much data to Earth that if you pick a photo from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter or Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, odds are good you'll be looking at data that only one or two other people have ever examined. You can actively contribute to space science research through citizen science projects like those at zooniverse.org, by mapping & classifying lunar craters, hunting in telescope photos for faint Kuiper belt objects, and lots of other fun stuff. This isn't playing at doing science -- it's actually being a scientist, and both kids and adults can participate.
    • W T 100+

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      Feb 14 2012: Incredible...I had no idea....I can just imagine what it must look like up on a smart board in a classroom!!

      Thank you Emily

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