public science understanding


Hellblade E3 2015 Gameplay Trailer

Ninja Theory to explore psychosis in new game - Hellblade

Ninja Theory, a Cambridge, UK based independent games developer, announced today that mental health and psychosis are the key themes explored in Hellblade. Inspired by historical events, Hellblade tells the story of Senua, a Celtic warrior who is left traumatised by a Viking invasion. This third person action game, being developed for PlayStation 4 and PC, will follow Senua’s journey into a vision of hell that is the manifestation of her own mental illness.

In order to ensure a sensitive and accurate portrayal of the subject, Ninja Theory has been working closely with Psychiatrist and Professor of Health and Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge, Paul Fletcher, as well as arranging to consult with people who have experience of mental health difficulties.

Paul Fletcher said: “True understanding of mental health is not simply about books, lectures or verbal descriptions but from deeper engagement on all levels. Working with Ninja Theory has shown me the potential that gaming has for sharing in a character’s experiences and engendering empathy in ways that go well beyond those offered by simple academic descriptions. Maybe this approach will contribute powerful new ways of challenging stigma.”

Hellblade is being developed by a small team of 15 people under a development model Ninja Theory call Independent AAA. This approach sees the game being created with all the creative freedom of ‘indie’ development, but with the production values of AAA blockbuster games.

Tameem Antoniades, Chief Creative Director at Ninja Theory, said: “In Hellblade we are pursuing creative independence in order to explore a compelling subject matter and gaming experience that would not be possible under the current retail model. In movie terms, this would be a quality independent film, not a Hollywood blockbuster. Digital self-publishing means that we can offer a smaller, but high quality game at around half the price of retail games.”

The project is supported by the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation which aims to build a greater public understanding of science, and in particular health.

Iain Dodgeon, Creative Partnerships Manager at the Wellcome Trust, added: “More and more, games have an exciting and innovative role to play in giving us new perspectives on health and mental health challenges. Rather than being a didactic game teaching us about psychosis, Hellblade allows us to explore it through the creation of a compelling and complex character, and the world that she inhabits.

Hellblade will be available in 2016.

It would be easy to dismiss Dawkins as a crank, except that he’s an important figure in the popular communication of science, as well as a prominent voice among atheists. Many scientists and science writers cite The Selfish Gene as a major reason they chose their career path. His more recent anti-religion manifesto The God Delusion has given many atheists courage and a sense of community, despite the lack of cultural acceptance of atheism in the United States. College professors assign The Greatest Show on Earth to students as an eloquent and readable introduction to evolutionary theory. At his best, Dawkins is a powerful writer and advocate for science, at a time when evolution and climate change are still considered controversial by too many people.

That’s why the gulf between the often-charming persona of Dawkins the author and the often-bigoted curmudgeon of Dawkins on Twitter is troubling. If actor/writer George Takei is the Internet’s wacky, liberal uncle, Dawkins is the cranky, racist grandpa we try to ignore on Facebook. Many science communicators use social media to promote both public understanding of science and inclusion of underrepresented groups—Danielle Lee, Katie Mack, and Slate’s own Phil Plait, to name just three. Positive voices for science and diversity are out there. We don’t need someone trying to set the clock back on representation.
Science is much more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking. This is central to its success.
Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions. It counsels us
to carry alternative hypotheses in our heads and see which best match the facts….
We need wide appreciation of this
kind of thinking. It works. It’s an essential tool for a democracy in an age of change. Our task is not just to
train more scientists but also to deepen public understanding of science.
—  Carl Sagan

Why Cosmos Can’t Save Public Support for Science

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s remake of Cosmos premiered Sunday night on Fox, to rave reviews. The show’s production values are gorgeous, and Tyson, the Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, may be the best science popularizer we have today.

If the conversations on Twitter (#cosmos) and science blogs are any indication, though, people seem to want more from Cosmos than quality edutainment. The New York Times’ Dennis Overbye wonders if Cosmos can solve the fracking debate. Clara Moskowitz, an editor for Scientific American, hopes that Tyson’s series can reeducate the quarter of Americans who think the sun revolves around the Earth. In a taped lead-in to the show, President Obama suggested that the show could play a role in the future of American innovation, urging viewers to “Open your eyes, open your imagination,” because “the next great discovery could be yours.”

As is so often the case with science communication, the assumption seems to be that public understanding of science—sprinkled with a hearty dose of wonder and awe—will produce respect for scientific authority, support for science funding, and a new generation of would-be scientists. If only Americans loved science a little more, the thinking goes, we could end our squabbling about climate change, clean energy, evolution, and funding NASA and the National Science Foundation. These are high hopes to pin on a television show, even one as glorious as Cosmos.

So what’s going on?

Read more. [Image: Cosmos]

The American Museum of Natural History has been awarded a generous grant by Carnegie Corporation of New York in recognition of the Museum’s exemplary educational offerings for K-12 students. The one-time grant, funded as part of the Corporation’s 2015 Presidential Discretionary Grant, is one of 18 such awards to cultural institutions with distinguished educational and enrichment programs for students in greater New York City. 

“We are so appreciative of Carnegie Corporation’s significant grant to support and enrich the Museum’s educational programs for New York City students and teachers,” said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “This is just the latest example of Carnegie’s longstanding and visionary partnership, which has empowered the Museum to apply its extraordinary resources and expertise in innovative ways to the challenges of improving science teaching and learning in the United States.”

The Museum has long been a leader in enhancing the public understanding of science through exhibitions, programs, and educational initiatives, and a top field trip destination with more than 500,000 visitors from school and camp groups each year.  As the need for science literacy and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education has grown more urgent over the past two decades, the Museum’s educational programs have been dramatically extended to leverage its unique scientific and educational resources and advance new forms of science teaching and learning.

Learn more. 

Yesterday the National Science Board announced that it will award the American Museum of Natural History with its 2015 Public Service Award! This award honors exemplary public service in promoting public understanding of science and engineering.

“Each year, the American Museum of Natural History shares the excitement and wonder of science with millions of students, teachers, families and other members of the public with its exhibitions and public programs,” said Vint Cerf, chair of NSB’s Committee on Honorary Awards. “Additional initiatives of the museum contribute to the teaching and learning of science and the training of the next generation of scientists.”

Learn more on the National Science Foundation website.