I've been asked to find presenters for a convention next spring. The big question is whether scientists and engineers are too "cool" to attend. Winnipeg holds a science fiction, fantasy, and gaming convention on Victoria Day weekend every year. For those who aren't Canadian, that's the 3rd weekend of May. There has always been a science component; in the past they've had presenters from Atomic Energy Commission Limited, the Canadian government nuclear lab, talking about what they do at Whiteshell Laboratories which is also in the province. Last May we had Dr. Jaynne English of the Space Telescope Institute give a presentation of her work with the Hubble Space Telescope.
I had heard that some scientists are so arrogant that they believe only pure science is real science, that applied science isn't "real". That means studying stuff just to learn why things work, no regard for that knowledge being used for anything. I got to see this first hand at the Canadian Space Exploration Workshop 4, held November 2002. Some of the scientists looked down their nose at the engineers in the next room, despite the fact those engineers develop the spacecraft to carry their instruments to Mars.
So the question is whether scientists are too scared to be seen at meetings of the "general public". Most people on this board are "general public" in the sense that they aren't NASA employees or contractors. But we can certainly handle technical stuff. I've found talking to the "general public" that they can handle the hard-core technical stuff, you just have to take the time to explain it. I've had many people comment that they really understand after hearing my presentation. I'm not the only person who can explain stuff, it's easy if you just take the time.
Keycon is the convention next May; Manitoba used to be known as the Keystone province before some politician changed its nickname. That's why it's called Key-Con. I've had some scientists scoff at presenting at a convention. One didn't want to present after the regular university school year. One would think he would be more available then, oh well. Others are part of the Phoenix team, which will land one week after the conference. I can understand busy. I would like to see a whole science track at the convention, but I'm having great difficulty.
This became more apparent at the presentation I made this weekend. A major comic convention was organized for the first time this year. It was actually held last year, but it was just dealers. This year was a major event with actors, artists, video rooms, and presentations. They had David Prowse (Darth Vador), Richard Hatch (Apollo from the 1970s Battlestar Galactica, and Tom Zarek from the current version of Battlestar), Gwynyth Walsh & Barbara March (Klingon sisters from Star Trek), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane from the Superman movies), and Herbert Jefferson Jr. (Boomer from the 1970s Battlestar). They also had several major DC, Marvel and other artists: Dave Finch, J. Torres, and Sue Dawe. Keith Andrew Topping was there, a writer for the TV show Doctor Who. I gave my Mars Society presentation. There wasn't a big audience, only a half dozen or so, but that was mostly due to a schedule mix-up. They listed my presentation on the website at 7:00pm but the printed program listed it at 6:00pm. Some of the advertising flyers stated the convention closed at 6:00pm but only the dealer room closed, the convention ran 24-hours. I got to talk to people I hadn't met before, and all but one was able to handle all the technical stuff. They loved it! One guy is manager of a local engineering firm, definitely able to handle the technical stuff. He was one of the convention organizers; engineers love sci-fi.
Oh, I have always been a Star Trek fan, so it was great talking to the actresses. They look a lot prettier without all that Klingon makeup. Most especially, there were several young women walking around in skimpy skin-tight costumes.
So how many scientists and engineers have the courage to show up at a sci-fi/fantasy/gaming convention, much less a comic book convention?