10 February 2018

Behind a Scientist - Dr. J.J. Eldrige


So today I'm continuing with an introduction of fellow scientists. The person I'm introducing today introduced me to Doctor Who and Facebook. Yep, JJ is behind my discovery and joining to, back in 2007 social network seemed as neat and novel idea.
Anyway, JJ Eldrige got their degrees from the University of Cambridge, UK and currently works at University of Auckland, New Zealand.
And here are the answers.

When did you get first interest in science?

Probably from watching science fiction programs and movies like Dr Who and Star Wars. Although I also remember having a ZX Spectrum and playing computer games in space I think had a big part of wanting to study science.

What motivated you to become a scientist?

I remember having a chat with a careers adviser at school, I didn't even know what a scientist was back then. He picked up I really like studying science and walked me through the doing degrees and research. While I'd always liked science that gave me a career path. Unfortunately being a starship captain was the only other alternative.

Can you give an example of how you use your scientific training or science in your everyday life?

Dealing with computer models and making calculations and approximation really helps in making budgets at home and dealing with finances.

How important is science for you?

Science is very important, it's all about understanding the way that the world and Universe works. And in this, it's important to remember that we ourselves are part of the world and Universe, so science is also a way of understanding ourselves and how the Universe evolved over 13.8 billion years so that we could exist.

Fun incident from your research work?

I don't know about a fun incident, teaching and lecturing are certainly fun. But maybe the most enjoyable part of research is when something new and unexpected happens, like when the gravitational waves were detected or is a nearby supernova occurs. Then it's exciting as fun as we have to work quickly to try and figure out a new discovery.

What do you think about the importance of science for humans?

Since science explains how the world works, understanding science allows us to improve our lives and hopefully make a better society.

What do you think about current state of science?

The two main problems with science at the moment is distrust of some aspects of science, such as skepticism around vaccines and climate change, I'll say more about this below. The other problem is that success of scientific research is evaluated in how much funding is awarded to a project rather than to the result. A lot of research and important findings can be done quite cheaply? I'm not sure we've quite worked out how to determine if research is good or not and sometimes use the wrong parameters to determine that.

What do you think about society attitude towards science?

As I said above there are some elements of mistrust. Which is funny, for example in astrophysics most people don't tell me I'm wrong when I mention the basic facts about the Universe, like when I mentioned the age above. But then with things like flat-earthers, anti-vaccine and climate-change skepticism are strange. Especially when there is so much evidence that the Earth is spherical, vaccines save lives and climate change is happening. I think it's a growing trend of not trusting experts, it also appears society is most skeptical about thinks they can experience in their own everyday lives. For example, the Earth does look quite flat - but then how can it be a day in the UK but night in New Zealand? Why do I need vaccines, I don't know anyone who had that illness - when the vaccines have been around for long enough you wouldn't. It's cold here today so how can the climate be changing - when the world is a big place and we know average global temperatures are rising with the 5 hottest years occurring since 2010.

What improvements would you like to see?

I think we people need to learn and be taught how to spot incorrect facts and stories. How to spot when they're being sold incorrect facts about science and the world. If it seems too good to be true, or if it requires a massive conspiracy of a group of international people, it probably isn't true.

What do you think the average person should do?

Learn, read and challenge your own preconceptions. I've found recently that the best learning experiences happen when you push yourself out of your comfort zone.

What do you think what average scientist should do?

Talk to people, listen to the questions they ask, show that we're people too.

Tell a bit about your favorite pass time activity?

Playing computer games, watching science fiction movies and TV and reading books. Nothing really changes, although now being a parent is good (if tiring) fun too!

Anything else you wish to say?

Thank you for asking me to think about these things!

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