One of the things I enjoy most about science is learning how different things work. I like to learn the details, the interesting and esoteric facts about a topic, and I like to learn about how it fits into the “bigger picture.” Science truly fascinates me.
When communicating science there is sometimes the tendency to assume that everyone else is like this too. That everyone wants to know the details, the intricate, fascinating and the esoteric. However, this is, in my experience seldom the case.
I also love music. However, a lack of fine motor skills, no sense of rhythm and being tone deaf, and an inability to read music means I possess few musical skills and know very little about the underlying theory of music. Nor am I particularly interested in learning about it. Yet, I still have a deep appreciation for music. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in this when it comes to science communication and the general public.
When we create a public talk or exhibition, are we planning to educate the public or do we want to create an appreciation for science? Focusing on education may bog us down with too much information, turning off the majority of people. Perhaps instead, science communication needs to be light on detail and focus on the wow factor? The flashy, the weird, perhaps even what we would consider the inconsequential?
Granted, appreciation and education are not completely separate entities. I would expect that activities that create appreciation would also incidentally educate. And I think we should always be ready with more information for those in any audience who find science as fascinating as I do.
Like music, I suspect there is a large majority of the population who are not interested in understanding the details of science. However, this does not mean that they cannot appreciate science.