Mental Block

Dr. Steven Block pioneered the development and use of laser-based “optical tweezers” to study the motion of individual molecules at the nanoscale level.

He’s kind of a big deal.

Block spoke at the Missouri Biophysics Symposium on March 10, then held a lunch Q&A at the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

He’s not a fan of air sensors to combat bio terrorism. A sensor “won’t tell you there’s anthrax in the air any quicker than your lungs will.”

Nor is he keen on big-pharma. “The best vaccine is one that you take once.”

Block isn’t confident in us either.

“How do you deliver a nuanced message, ever?” It’s either, Steven Block taught us to make smallpox or We have nothing to worry about, he said.

“By training journalists to deliver it,” responded Katherine Reed, associate professor of print and digital news at MU. She pointed to the work of the Association of Health Care Journalists at Mizzou.

He views the communication of science, research and the quest for knowledge as “a really, really tough problem.”

Mythbusters is the only show on TV that truly teaches the “real process of how you find knowledge. By observation, by making lots of mistakes.”

Knowledge comes through research, not sitting around waiting for elucidation, he said. “You gotta measure stuff, you gotta try things out, you gotta blow stuff up.”

And you, Dr. Block, need to trust that there are competent journalists out there who are attempting to effectively communicate science to the public.

Not everyone in journalism is doing their part. The ones who are don’t always get it right. But…

We’re working toward the same goal: a better informed public.

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