Bobak Ferdowsi, Elise Andrew, and Derek Muller Discuss Life on Other Planets, Higgs Boson, and Future of Science Education

Bobak Ferdowsi, Elise Andrew, and Derek Muller Discuss Life on Other Planets, Higgs Boson, and Future of Science Education
By Amanda Walgrove
  • We’re geeking out in the What’s Trending studio with a huge science-fueled chat, featuring NASA’s Flight Director and iconic Mohawk Guy Bobak Ferdowsi, Veritasium’s Derek Muller and I Fucking Love Science‘s Elise Andrew.

    First, we positively have to know how it’s looking out there on Mars. “The water looks like fresh water that you might find on Earth,” Ferdowsi says, noting that the water contains ingredients that could sustain life.

    Alas, the Rover mission team is actually on vacation because Mars is currently moving to the other side of the sun, and while the station does get daily updates from the Rover, they’re not transferring a great deal of information at this time.

    While Elise Andrew is used to getting the “women in science” question (many people did not realize the IFLS community was run by a woman), she says she doesn’t understand why people were so surprised about her involvement in the field.

    “I think people are just not up to date necessarily on what science and engineering looks like nowadays,” Ferdowsi chimes in to say.

    A huge part of broadening science education is taking place right here on YouTube, with Mueller as a prime example of those leading the charge with educational channels and content. “I actually spent my PHD –  three and a half years of my life –  studying how to make a good educational video about things in science,” he says. “What you need is more context,” he adds, noting the importance of destroying people’s preconceived notions and starting an engaging discussion.

    Mueller excitedly identifies the Higgs Boson as discovery of the century and something that makes him anxious about  developments in the field of genetics. He says, “Figuring out, for example, the role of junk DNA and being able to sequence DNA much faster than before and much cheaper than before.”

    For those looking to break into the science education community online, Andrew and Mueller advise embracing social content and taking risks with your material. Andrew stresses consistency. She urges people not give up if people don’t respond right away as it takes time to build up a following.

    Regarding her own work, she’s been asked to write a book and do a TV show but, she admits, “I just want to keep doing what I’m doing at the moment, which is showing people everything that I think is amazing.” Eventually, she’ll choose the appropriate format through which to expand her community.

    When choosing what to share, she relies more on instinct about the “cool” factor. “If you’re talking about what engages people more, it’s always medicine and it’s always astrophysics,” she says. “But science doesn’t tend to have trends in the same way the news does.”

    In terms of major discoveries yet to unfold, Ferdowsi says, “I think this is the year where we’re going to see some big announcements on Earth-like planets outside of other stars.” He continues, “Today’s Mars is not necessarily the best place for life, but there are moons of Jupiter like Europa for example or the moon of Saturn, Titan, that look really promising.”

    For more of YouTube’s best, subscribe to What’s Trending!