Alan Alda at Technion

Best known as Captain Hawkeye Pierce from the hit 1970s television series M*A*S*H, the actor Alan Alda gave a fascinating lecture at Technion on February 21st on a subject about which he is passionate: communicating science to the public.

Alda, who is an expert in this field, established the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York, and conducts seminars all over the U.S. to help scientists improve the way they explain their work to other people.

Many of the techniques Alda uses to teach communication, such as improvisational theater, are rooted in his acting career, and his talent as an actor was also clearly on display during his lecture. Alda, who is 82, had no problem holding the attention of the crowd in the large auditorium despite the lack of PowerPoint slides, proving that he is indeed a master of communication.

During the hour-long lecture, Alda compared interest in Science to the three stages of falling in love (which he invented): attraction, infatuation and commitment. If scientists are able to connect to their listeners in such a way that they achieve commitment and an emotional bond, the listeners will remain engaged in the long-term. Since these are skills that everyone can learn, Alda believes that every scientist can be trained to effectively communicate even the most complex information to a lay public.   

Alda visited Technion as part of the Science Communication Workshop, which he, together with instructors from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, delivered to researchers who are members of The Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program founded by Mort Zuckerman. The program promotes joint research by doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in the United States and Israel through scholarships and educational initiatives in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A second Science Communication Workshop, dedicated to Technion faculty is being held this week. This workshop is funded by The Kavli Foundation, dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of humanity, promoting public understanding of scientific research, and supporting scientists and their work.