Friday, 31 October 2008

Science Marathons: On Scientific Method

I've stopped blogging for the past couple of months as I've been busy studying the Open University course “S104 Discovering Science” which has meant severely cutting back on other activities.

On Thursday I went attended a couple of science lectures at the Spanish National Museum of Science and Technology or Museo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (unfortunately their website is only in Spanish although the printed brochure is also in English).

These “marathon” events are held about once a month and last from after lunch until Spanish dinner time. Students at participating Madrid universities can do a short assignment afterwards and gain credits towards their degrees. As I have to work I was only able to attend the second half. The first lecture was about the “Discovery and Development of Penicillin” by Dr Pedro García Barreno, of the Complutense University. The second was called “Naming and labelling. Taxonomic Methods in Natural History” by Dr. Santos Casado de Otaola of the Autonoma. The rather cramped room was almost full, with chairs in the corridor for latecomers. There are eight of these days planned. The next one is on 27 November, “Origins. Universe and Earth. International year of Planet Earth.“ A good initiative to get the lectures out of the campus and to appeal to a wider audience (like myself).

I visited the museum for the first last year during the Noche en Blanco when the museums stay open all night. It has a fascinating collection of scientific instruments and technological inventions brought together from a number of independent institutions. Such a shame that such a noble effort should be housed in a side wing of an retired railway station with hardly even any effort to adapt the building. Compare it to the art museums just up the road with their bloated mega-budget extensions (read my post New Prado Museum Extension). How narrow minded governments can be. Nonetheless it seems a brave initiative on the part of the museum and the universities to mount such an ambitious programme of lectures in the face of manifest indifference by the ministry of Science and Innovation.