05/05/2005 07:00:00

Communicating Science to the General Public

PASADENA, Calif.- How do you write about complex scientific issues so that non-specialists can understand and appreciate the information? That challenge is the subject of the California Institute of Technology's third annual Science Writing Symposium at 8 p.m. Monday, May 16, in Sharp Auditorium, 155 Arms Laboratory, at Caltech. It is free and open to the public. The symposium's panel features a prominent Caltech scientist, professor Christof Koch, and two noted science writers, Margaret Wertheim and Leonard Mlodinow. Panelists will discuss their work and respond to audience questions and comments. A reception will follow.

Christof Koch, is the Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology and executive officer for computation and neural systems. He is the author of more than three hundred scientific papers and journal articles and of several books, including Biophysics of Computation: Information Processing in Single Neurons and The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach. Koch studies the biophysics of computation and the neuronal basis of visual perception, attention, and consciousness. Together with his longtime collaborator, the late Francis Crick, he has pioneered the scientific study of consciousness.

Wertheim is an internationally noted science writer and commentator whose work has appeared in prominent publications, including The New York Times, The Guardian, New Scientist, Wired, Vogue, and others. She has written many television documentaries and three books including: Pythagoras' Trousers (about physics, religion, and women) and The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace (a cultural history of space, from Dante to the Internet). Her "Quark Soup" column appears in the LA Weekly. Leonard Mlodinow is coauthor, with Stephen Hawking, of the forthcoming A Briefer History of Time. Mlodinow has also written Euclid's Window (a humorous, accessible history of geometry) and Feynman's Rainbow (a physics memoir). In the 1990s, he developed award-winning computer games and wrote for television, including scripts for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Before becoming a fulltime writer, he was on the Caltech physics faculty. The annual Words Matter Science Writing Symposium is part of the Institute's Words Matter project, which is intended to foster a culture of literacy at Caltech, cultivate students' interest in writing in its varied forms, and help students appreciate the many ways in which words, indeed, matter. Words Matter brings visiting writers to campus for interaction with the Caltech community. The Science Writing Symposium is especially relevant to Caltech undergraduates engaged in the Institute's science writing requirement.

For more information, call (626) 395-3706.

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Contact: Jill Perry (626) 395-3226 jperry@caltech.edu

Visit the Caltech Media Relations Web site at: http://pr.caltech.edu/media

Written by Jill Perry