A year ago I caught a taxi at Reagan National Airport. The taxi driver, a young Ethiopian man, had the radio tuned to Science Friday, and I asked him if he listened to it often. "Oh, yes!" he said. "It is my favorite program!" While supporting his family and driving a taxi, this young man was also studying anatomy and physiology at a local community college, in hopes of becoming a physical therapist. Science Friday helped inspire in him the curiosity and ambition to reach for his dreams.
This afternoon I got in a dispute with my husband, who scoffed at my suggestion that Science Friday reaches a million listeners a week. So I looked it up. I was wrong: 1.3 million listeners a week tune in to hear Ira Flatow coax scientists to explain the latest discoveries and controversies. Not all those listeners are PhDs or science graduates: some of them are just plain curious adults, and some of them are teenagers who want to hear about everything from stem cells to HPV to extrasolar planets to the latest Internet technology.
Science Friday archives past programs, so if you want to find out more about, say, ice, the origins of kissing, how fleas jump, or how to build a subway, you can check the Science Friday website and download a past podcast. You can also watch videos on burrowing owls, a home-made 3D printer, fossils, or the physics of hair in Disney's animated movie Tangled. You can find science articles in Spanish and science blogs for teens on such topics as becoming a high altitude archeologist or the dangers of diet soda.
The associated "Talking Science" website includes sections for parents, teachers, and kids. There are resources for parents who want to do science activities at home, for middle school teachers who want to bring contemporary science connections to their classrooms, and for kids who want to explore science careers or just see what kinds of science other kids are doing. 'the truly adventurous among you can even explore Science Friday in Second Life.
In my opinion, Science Friday is a national treasure, one of the reasons the adult population of America is more scientifically literate than might be expected by our kids' test scores. I invite all of you to listen to the program, take a look around the website, and think about how you can use Science Friday to enrich your own science knowledge and that of our kids and neighbors.