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The Politically Incorrect Science Fair 275

Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "Science fairs have reached new levels of intensity, and students are turning to trendy topics like stem-cell research and intelligent design to get a leg up, the Wall Street Journal reports. 'Serene Chen says she might not be at Harvard now were it not for her application essay, which described her fetal-stem-cell research on the characteristics of Down syndrome. "If you say you studied something like 'random molecule,' it's obscure, but when you say 'stem cells,' people really perk up," says Ms. Chen, 20, now a sophomore. ... Of a 2002 project involving marijuana muffins for pain management in Santa Cruz, Calif., Mission Hill Middle School science teacher Sherri Kilkenny says, "It got all this attention, but it was very average at best." '"
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The Politically Incorrect Science Fair

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  • by Shag ( 3737 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @11:56AM (#14749537)
    As much as scientists would like to do research that really matters, and accomplishes something important, they (I will not say "we," because although virtually everyone I work with is a scientist, I lack any formal post-high-school training in the sciences) are smart enough to realize that headlines count too.

    This isn't to say that scientists go through their entire careers just generating flash and noise - very few do. But a discovery that plays well to the masses, despite being relative "fluff" in terms of scientific value or breaking very little new ground, can raise awareness of one's work, which can make it a lot easier to get funding for the research that does matter.

    These enterprising youth are just picking up on this at an early age, and leveraging it in their favour. Buzzword-compliance probably won't get them beyond a certain point career-wise, but it's interesting to see it having some effect at the beginning.
    • by Cheerio Boy ( 82178 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:08PM (#14749597) Homepage Journal
      These enterprising youth are just picking up on this at an early age, and leveraging it in their favour. Buzzword-compliance probably won't get them beyond a certain point career-wise, but it's interesting to see it having some effect at the beginning.

      But they shouldn't have to do this. This isn't something they should need to know to be scientists and researchers. Period.

      Science should be about studying things because you want to understand them better or know more about them. Money shouldn't enter into it.

      Unfortuantely money seems to be the prime motivator for research lately. This is unfortunate because it will probably cause many many great things about the universe to be missed in favor of what's "popular" at the time.
      • by Shag ( 3737 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:19PM (#14749650)
        And musicians shouldn't have to know how to do anything but music.
        And chefs shouldn't have to know how to do anything but cook.
        And geeks shouldn't have to know how to do anything but program.
        And athletes shouldn't have to know how to do anything but sports.
        And managers shouldn't have to know how to do anything. ;)

        Sorry, but "I'm a specialist, so I don't have to know how to market myself" doesn't hold up for a femtosecond. Why do you think so many job postings in the sciences list grant writing ability as desirable? People who can convince others to give them money for something will generally do a lot better than those who can't.

        And unfortunately, science isn't like fast food. You don't get out of high school and get a low-paying job working at the drive-thru window of the local laboratory. Unless you've got the chops to work at Bell Labs or somewhere similar, you can't just research whatever you find interesting without having to wonder about where the money's coming from.

        It's largely a tradeoff - you can get a nice steady paycheck for researching what the corporate suits want you to research, or you can have a more interesting job that you know up front is only guaranteed for a short period of time, after which it might be renewed "contingent upon continued funding."

        We just had a thread on here about NASA budget cuts. One of the areas that's getting cut is astrobiology research. Some of the people I work with have been doing a lot of work in that field, and I've been doing a lot of work with them. (Remember last year's "deep impact" mission? Key members of the astrobiology team for that, basically.) In my case, there are other non-astrobiology researchers that'll pick up any slack in my schedule, but I don't wanna see the astrobiology sorts out panhandling on the corners either. (They're nice folks, and kinda cute for scientists. ;)

        It would be really nifty if all the scientists had steady paychecks, and Bush had to hold a bake sale when he wanted to create a new cabinet-level department of the federal government, but oh well. :(
        • Sorry, but "I'm a specialist, so I don't have to know how to market myself" doesn't hold up for a femtosecond. Why do you think so many job postings in the sciences list grant writing ability as desirable? People who can convince others to give them money for something will generally do a lot better than those who can't.

          You are right on all your points and I accept all of them. However that doesn't make the situation right. Nor will I agree that it ever will be as long as money is a motivator.

          It wo
          • by Shag ( 3737 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:54PM (#14749811)
            Oh, I wholeheartedly concur that the situation is not "right." There are plenty of things in this world that aren't. And sure, I'd like to see it improved upon, and will avail myself of any opportunity to improve upon it.

            Unfortunately, that includes sucking up^W^Wbeing nice to the right people. ;) The head of a totally-donation-funded entity I help in my spare time just told me yesterday that I'd gotten them an extra EUR 100,000 by spending a couple hours at a reception thrown by a government ministry and putting up some flattering photos from it on a web page. Is this silly? Sure. Am I gonna complain? Hell no. ;)

            In general, I just take the view that the scientific stuff I get to do is really cool and fun and interesting... you know, the "childlike awe and curiosity" that pervades people who're really into scientific discovery? I'm just grateful that I get to do it at all, and even more so that I get a little money in the process. :)
      • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:24PM (#14749671) Homepage
        But they shouldn't have to do this. This isn't something they should need to know to be scientists and researchers. Period.

        If you are independenty wealthy and are doing science as a hobby, your post is absolutely right.

        For the rest of us, doing science does mean getting funding - not only for equipment, travel, conferences and the rest, but also for the rather important, if mundane, reason that it's good to be able to pay for food and rent. Being homeless and begging for food tends to put a crimp in your research, whether you're really interested in your work or not.

        But take heart - people are working on what they find interesting and worthwhile. It really is amazing how far you can stretch descriptions of your actual work to make it fit whatever is the flavor of the day. Take just about any two subjects - models of neuarl plasticity in the accessory basal amygdala and feminist influences in nineteenth-century reinterpretations of Chaucer, say - and any good researcher working in either field will be perfectly able to seek money earmarked for the other.

        • For the rest of us, doing science does mean getting funding - not only for equipment, travel, conferences and the rest, but also for the rather important, if mundane, reason that it's good to be able to pay for food and rent. Being homeless and begging for food tends to put a crimp in your research, whether you're really interested in your work or not.

          Point. But that doesn't make it right. Science, and indeed any research, should never in my opinion depend on cashflow. As far as I'm concerned it colo
          • Point. But that doesn't make it right. Science, and indeed any research, should never in my opinion depend on cashflow. As far as I'm concerned it colors the research.

            Right? Why? Does not the people with the money have a right to decide what to fund? Or do you suggest any project, whether promising or utterly ridiculous, get funded equally?

            And scientists are people. We want money and job security. We want health insurance, we want clothes for our kids, and we want a secure retirement, just like everybody el
            • Right? Why? Does not the people with the money have a right to decide what to fund? Or do you suggest any project, whether promising or utterly ridiculous, get funded equally?

              Remind me again - how many years ago was it "ridiculous" that a man could not fly like a bird? Or reach the moon? Hmmm? Often times some of the most ridiculous areas of research deliver some absolutely stunning results. To not support those would be turning our back on history and closing off whole avenues of discovery.

              It's n
            • And scientists are people. We want money and job security. We want health insurance, we want clothes for our kids, and we want a secure retirement, just like everybody else. If you want science to be some kind of monk-like self-depriving calling rather than a fun, absorbing, fascinating - but still - career, then you're looking at losing well over 99% of all practicioners in the field.

              It occurs to me that I missed addressing this. And that you are correct. The problem comes when people enter science f
              • by Shag ( 3737 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:27PM (#14750414)
                It occurs to me that I missed addressing this. And that you are correct. The problem comes when people enter science fields BECAUSE of the money not because they love science.

                Enter science fields... because of... the money??!?!

                HAhahahahahaa!

                That was a good one.

                If you're smart enough to work professionally in the sciences, the odds are very good that you could make 2-4 times as much money in some other field. I know I have.

                But... I was there "for the money." And I agree with you that's not a good place to be. I'm definitely not in science "for the money."
                • by Shag ( 3737 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:34PM (#14750452)
                  As an example, some of the most highly educated, publicly visible, and famous scientists are... astronauts. If their pay scale still goes from GS-11 to GS-14 like it did in the '90s, that means they base pay "starts" (usually after multiple degrees and considerable work in some other field) around $52K, and "top out" under $100K.

                  NASA had a page up years ago that basically said, "If you want to make money, don't be an astronaut, go into the private sector."
        • As the comic philosopher George Carlin noted:

          "Nail together two things that have never been nailed together before, and some shmuck will buy it." He made this comment in reference to people's tastes in porn, but this isn't fundamentally much different.

          Mal-2
      • I'm not so sure that money is the prime motivator for more than a handfull of researchers. Money can be a powerful motivator for a department or university but very few people who have the ability to drive cutting edge research are going to be motivated enough by money to devote their lives to a topic. Btw I got lucky on the buzzword factor. I studied Buckminsterfullerenes (bucky balls) as a junior in high school, by the time I was sending out college applications the Nobel prize had been awarded for the di
    • As much as scientists would like to do research that really matters...

      Let's get one thing straight. There are two kinds of scientists. No, not mad and regular but instead pop and real. A pop scientist would be someone like the late Carl Sagan or Brian Greene who publish books, know how to speak to the masses, and are recognized as TV personalities who come on late night and say a few words.

      A real scientist is one who actually devotes their life to their work and really doesn't care if it's ever ex

      • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:21PM (#14749662) Homepage Journal
        I have to point out that Sagan was also both; he was a working astronomer with a number of significant achievements to his credit before he went the pop-sci route.
      • by Atraxen ( 790188 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:33PM (#14749709)
        "Oddly enough, the pop scientists are often teachers because they love the idea of instilling a copy of themselves into the mainstream. But they also cater to the lowest common denominator, hence their writings to the public."

        This characterization is altogether too common, and from my point of view, flat-out wrong. Einstein and Feynman both knew how to break down complex and current science in such a way that folks from outside the field were able to understand most (if not always all) of it. Does that make them lesser scientists? And are we really so elitist that we have to call any explanation below the journal article level "LCD"?

        In the end, it was the lack of public understanding of hot-button topics such as stem cells and anything with the word "nuclear" (why do you think it's called an MRI at the hospital, not a nuclear MRI which would be more proper) that made the science so hard to sell. It would be an idyllic research world if scientists never had to worry about money - I've been working in basic research for 3 years now on an unfunded project, so I have a full appreciation of how important even a trickle of money can be. If we as scientists were more effective more often at communicating with Joe Sixpack (and please, remove all traces of condesention from your mind's voice when you read that), maybe we wouldn't be complaining so much about his uninformed voting on the matters.

        "In closing, a pop scientist craves public attention and recognition. A real scientist craves knowledge and nothing more. Which one of these two are you most like?"

        Learning without dissemination isn't science - it's a hobby. But dissemination can funnel into directions other than solely into articles. I agree that peer-review is a critical part of how we do business, and if a researcher goes straight to the New York Times instead of Science, that's a red flag. But what's wrong with books and lectures aimed at the masses? Here in Pittsburgh, the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh holds the Faraday memorial lecture every winter aimed at explaining science a wider audience, following in his footsteps. It's unfortunate that so many of these books slide in to the 'Let's Dumb It Down' paradigm, because an effective communicator can simultaneously distill a complex topic down to its essentials while remaining true to the fact that the science contains many nuances.

        My $0.02 as a chemist and an educator.
        • Public lectures and other forms of outreach are a very interesting point, Atraxen!

          My primary workplace is the top research complex on the planet, in its field. Bar none. (And I say that quite seriously.) I've worked there for the better part of two years now. Before I started working there, I was a volunteer at the visitor center - and I've never stopped being a volunteer. I'm most certainly not just there for a paycheck. ;)

          I've already made it clear that I Am Not A Scientist[TM], but since I work hand
      • All I can say is that I presume all "real" scientists are born with trust funds, then. :)

        I work for the graduate division of a university, and thus know a lot of people who would I'm sure would be considered "real" scientists, even by someone as picky as you. I have never known a single one who disliked the idea of recognition by his or her peers, let alone the public. I have never heard of any of them turning down any grants. And so on.

        Of course people should be doing science because they want to do it.
      • This view of the scientist as a kind of secular monk, dedicated to his research and nothing else, doesn't work very well in practice. Speaking as a scientist and a workaholic, I am strongly inclined to say that it is nonsense.

        The reality is that most science needs resources, i.e. money, space, and equipment. To get that, a scientist needs to be able to prepare his case and defend it; nobody is going to give him or her these without a good reason. After all, there are other people asking for the money as wel
      • i seriously doubt that you are a scientist of any calibre, because if you were you would realize that the following truths apply: 1) funding has to come from somewhere, it does not magically appear ex nihilo; 2) science is usually hard to do without some substantial capital expenses and a constant revenue of funding to pay for lab techs and folks doing the grunt work; 3) if you love what you do, you're excited about it and it's something that you want to share with people and help them get excited about too
      • A philosophy of science professor of mine once said that there are about 250 people in the world who understood or cared about what he did. It is possible that such work will eventually yield something which will contribute towards significant breakthroughs, but it seemed to me that what he was doing was probably pointless. If what you are doing has little or no chance of impact on ordinary people's lives at any future point, even through research based on yours, that's a hobby.

        The aggravating thing about t
  • Interesting (Score:2, Informative)

    by azureice ( 904620 )
    I'll be attending my second Intel ISEF this year, but I have yet to see anything that controversial. I've heard of controversial 4th dimension calculus projects, but never stem cells. I'm sure something like stem cell research would attract a lot of attention. I think it's a good thing if we start seeing these kidns of projects though. Some people might be offended by it or against it, but it's pushing science in the right direction of exploring the unknown, and it's good to see students picking up on t
    • Here's a good biology experiment to be made regarding the role of parasites in the ecology of an environment. A scientist in California made an observation that a marshy area was biologically rich *BECAUSE* of the lifecycle requirements of a parasite, and posited that the area would probably be 30% less diverse without the parasite (parasite caused weird behaviors in fish, which caused more of them to look edible, which brought in more fish-eating birds, which increased chances of parasite which...)

      Do you l
  • Shock Science... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cheerio Boy ( 82178 )
    So basically what these kids are learning is that they should only be studying subjects that wow and amaze or are in contention.

    So much for the lowly germ unless it's causing an epidemic or the lowly bug unless they're swarming.

    Regular science goes by the wayside for the "Reality TV" version of science.
    • But don't forget, kids don't know what they want to do in life.

      They may think they do, or their parents might brain wash them into thinking a certain path is "the way", but for the most part, a middle school kid has no fscking clue wtf they want to do when they're older.

      If you can hook them into the Sciences with fluff, that's okay by me, because when they actually try to take AP level sciences, we'll find out mighty quick who's got any aptitude for the subject or not.

      At the college level, you get another c
  • start them young (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:04PM (#14749575) Homepage Journal
    Any future researchers needs to know that if one wants to get the money, one has to get the grants, and if one wants the grants, one has to be in the trendy research of the day.

    Of course, the trendy research changes, and one can find oneself in grant limbo. That is why it is often better to do something personally interesting instead of just hoping for money. That way, if you don't get the money, at least you are doing something interesting.

    • If I may take an unpopular viewpoint, I think this is precisely one of the reasons that some people do not trust research about today's popular issues (global warming, for example). As you and other posters have pointed out, if you want grants, you have to be in the trendy research of the day. What better way for your research to remain trendy than to market your results as important to the future of the world? (I am not claiming that any wrongdoing is going on, only that there is an incentive for wrongd
  • I'd bet that most high-school students were more interested in getting laid than working on stem-cell research. And why the hell aren't U.S. high-school college advisors telling students that they need to be doing post-graduate level research if they want to get into the top schools? Oh, but God forbid that U.S. high-schools cut back on athletics and put the money and energy into cultivating intellectuals.
    • Don't blame the athletics departments... U.S. schools are amoung the top 3 best funded schools in the world. There are schools that recieve a fraction of the amount of money your typical U.S. school recieves, and do far better.

      The problems in U.S. schools have NOTHING... NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with funding.
    • Hey, I'm in one of those top schools AND I'M STILL TRYING TO GET LAID. I don't understand the problem :)
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:07PM (#14749588)
    Doesn't that make you sad? People have to pass up legitimate, useful research just because the buzzword-laden research gets them more attention and funding.
  • by karlfr ( 897006 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:08PM (#14749591)
    From TFA: "And some say latching on to a controversial topic is a cheap way to get buzz. Of a 2002 project involving marijuana muffins..."

    Hmm... using "marijuana muffins" to get a cheap buzz?

    Now there's a novel idea...
  • by ndogg ( 158021 ) <the@rhorn.gmail@com> on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:09PM (#14749599) Homepage Journal
    All I have to say is that much of the fault for the politicization of science lies not with scientists.

    PS Politicization isn't a word, but I'm not sure there's a better term.
  • "Science" fair? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@mac.cOPENBSDom minus bsd> on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:13PM (#14749627) Journal
    Creationism is not a scientific topic. It's nothing more than a big "nu-uh" to the evidence which overwhelmingly supports the theory of evolution.

    -jcr
    • But God help [sic] the poor judge who finds himself faced with a project proving that all the dinosaurs were wiped out in a flood 6,000 years ago. Many years ago my project was next to a project proving the power of pyramids to do all sorts of stuff, and when the project didn't win (duh) the parent disrupted the awards ceremony complaining about bias and conspiracies.

      I expect no better from the ID supporters, who have no conception of what science really is, so there's no logical basis on which to argue wi
      • But God help [sic] the poor judge who finds himself faced with a project proving that all the dinosaurs were wiped out in a flood 6,000 years ago.

        Well, a project that actually proved such a thing would be quite a stunning achievement, since it didn't actually happen. A project which made such a claim on the other hand, should be dismissed for the puffery that it is.

        -jcr
      • The whole point of intelligent design is that you can't prove that we weren't designed, so it is not falsifiable. That's the major point of contention between scientists and ID proponents. So there's really nothing you can do to "refute" ID.
  • by yamamushi ( 903955 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ihsumamay]> on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:30PM (#14749697) Homepage
    As a student who has been competing the Intel Science Fair for the past 4 years, I can say from experience that there are some very BS topics out there. Projects that have no scientific merit, Judges that don't understand what you are talking about so give you a random score depending on their level of intelligence (if you confuse the smart ones you get a low score, but the dumb ones give you high scores). Then there are the projects that couldn't have possibly been done without the help of professionals (their parents are doctors, their teachers doing research for them, etc.). I wrote small operating system 2 years ago, and had the misfortune of having a judge point to a random line in my source code and ask "What does this line do?". When I couldn't answer him (20,000 line+ source), he gave me straight 2's (highest being 6, lowest being 0), which knocked me out of competing at state. San Antonio boasts one of the largests Science Fairs in TX, however they need to get their act straight and get some good judges instead of the one's they've had in the past. For anyone that's interested, I'm doing my project over Buffer Overflows on MINIX 3.0 this year (which supposedly eliminates the threat of Buffer Overflows).
    • If you didn't know what a line of code in YOUR code did, then you deserved a low score.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:39PM (#14749733)
    If these science projects can help gather data on the true pros and cons of controversial ideas, then these projects are a good thing.

    If these science projects can help inform the public about controversial ideas, then these projects are a good thing.

    If these science projects can help train future voters to think rationally about controversial ideas, then these projects are a good thing.

    I'm sure that some of the projects may be buzzword laden copies of wikipedia entries, but I applaud those ernest young researchers that tackle tough societally-relevant topics with good science.
  • Upside/downside (Score:5, Insightful)

    by No Such Agency ( 136681 ) <abmackay AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:39PM (#14749735)
    The main message I got from this article is that some kids are doing INCREDIBLY ADVANCED projects, whatever the subject is.

    From my experience in high school, and from working in a research lab for many years... the kids who do these projects usually have CONNECTIONS. They didn't just waltz up to a university researcher with a proposal, and get to work in a "real lab". They probably knew someone who knew someone. They got to do this work not just because they were bright, which I'm positive they are, but because they were able to get a foot in the door. I got expert advice (though no material support) on my flatworm regeneration project in Grade 10... because my mom was in the same local political org as a biology prof.

    So the upside of all this is that high school science fairs are being exposed to a much higher quality of project than before. Which is very good - it gives them a better idea what real research is like.

    The downside is that Joe(sephine) Blow regular HS student hasn't got a chance of even being noticed with their project that was done without access to a lab, or any funding. And hence... may not bother to do a project at all.
    • I thought Bush said we were behind in science, not that our children were orchestrating complex research projects for regional science fairs. Then again, it's usually safe to believe the opposite of what he says.
    • Re:Upside/downside (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sigma 7 ( 266129 )

      The downside is that Joe(sephine) Blow regular HS student hasn't got a chance of even being noticed with their project that was done without access to a lab, or any funding. And hence... may not bother to do a project at all.

      The school that I went to balanced things out by having a list of science fair projects that we take and use to set up a display... This was intended to prevent killer advanced projects from coming in, and to prevent a whole quantity of volcanos. Basically, it evened the playing fiel

    • "the kids who do these projects usually have CONNECTIONS. They didn't just waltz up to a university researcher with a proposal, and get to work in a "real lab". They probably knew someone who knew someone."

      Damn straight. IAAS, and I can tell you with 99.5% confidence, that this is how it works. The kids you see at the Intel Talent Search with posters on quantum mechanics or stem cell propogation are probably smart, but almost certainly have parents in the physics and/or biology departments at a major rese
      • In Bellingham, WA, if you want to get "college-level" high school education, you go to Sehome HS. It is right next to campus of Western Washington University, and relative to the rest of Bellingham and Whatcom County, has probably more WWU professors in-district and their kids than any other school district in Bellingham or Whatcom County. If you were serious into college prep in high school, your parents will probably move into that district...

        It was always a pleasure beating their team in Knowledge Bowl,
  • by surlygrad ( 875590 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:49PM (#14749782)
    I went to a super competitive prep school, where everyone had Ivy on the brain. I remember two girls my age on the student newspaper. They both worked very hard at it, and when we were seniors they fought each other, practically to the death, over who got the top editor spot. The loser got the next rung. Both went on to Yale. Yale has one of the best college newspapers in the country, the Yale Daily News. I remember looking them up in college to see if either had continued in journalism; the answer was no. The girl who became the editor in chief? She became an investment banker as soon as she graduated. My point is, these kids in the science fairs, like those two girls, are just doing whatever it takes to get into college, and may not have any real interest in being scientists.
  • Whatever (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mattboy99 ( 637246 ) <jarjoura@ g m a i l . c om> on Saturday February 18, 2006 @01:02PM (#14749856) Homepage
    Students have ALWAYS used the latest HOT topic because it's all over the news and teachers want students to pick something. Unfortunately students beat these subjects to death, eventually these will fall by the wayside of war on drugs and abortion like in the 90s.
  • Plus ca change (Score:3, Informative)

    by Flying pig ( 925874 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @01:25PM (#14749983)
    Back in the 60 when radioactivity was good and uranium was the wonder fuel of the future, I spent a year of out of school chemistry working on chemical separation of short lived isotopes from uranium.

    Once I'd actually been accepted by Cambridge, I never went near chemistry again. (The joke was that after all that I passed the exam with enough points not to proceed to oral interview, so I never got to talk to anyone about my "research project". And, anyway, when I got there I found that what I was doing was just low grade industrial stuff, and real research wasn't anything like that at all.)

  • by AngryNick ( 891056 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:31PM (#14750434) Homepage Journal
    As a former science fair winner and judge, this is just another example of a tried and true method of winning your local* science fair (Patent Pending [google.com]):

    1. Depending on the judging pool, pick a topic and problem statement that your mother finds either very interesting or very offensive.
    2. Research your topic using Google and believe anything that you see.
    3. Develop a hypothesis you know is grossly incorrect yet easily believable by people in your community (Call the White House for suggestions)
    4. Do some basic experiments with a questionable methodology.
    5. Show your results: Think colorful bar graphs and pie charts. Lots of words make things too complicated.
    6. Conclude that your results are history making and will forever change how the World views your topic.

    I wish this wasn't mostly true, but most of society favors flamboyance over precision.

    *This method has only been validated at the local science fair level. Results at the State level may vary if the project is subjected to a more strenuous and informed judging process.

  • Experience says (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ursabear ( 818651 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:02PM (#14750638) Homepage Journal
    Experience indicates that often the flair of a presentation is more prize-fetching than its substance. Often, the bar is set to standards like "well, they're not professionals so we should cut them some slack."

    WRT my kids, their presentations have been along the lines of stuff that is environmentally interesting or is "future science." I'm very proud of the efforts they've made, but honestly, they didn't have a chance against the glitz-covered crowd.

    So, really, what becomes important (not winning) is what the student learned about the scientific process. That's the part on which we've focused.

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