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The source of many major problems in society is an overwhelming lack of science awareness. Climate change, evolution, vaccinations, homoeopathy – none of these should be creating any kind of controversy anywhere. The science on each of these issues is pretty damn clear. It is not the case that everyone need to be an expert on such things, but they ought to have a basic understanding on where the scientific community stands. This, however, is not always easy. The public doesn’t get too much info directly from scientists and this is a problem. So is where we actually do get our info, but that’s another post. Science needs a PR boost in a big way. Enter today’s hero.

Neil-DeGrasse-TysonNeil deGrasse Tyson not just one of the smartest people alive today, he is also one of the coolest. He gives talks, hosts tv shows, writes books, and by so doing, spreads scientific understanding to people all over the world. Most important, he does it in an inviting way, presenting science, not as something to fear or be wary of, but as something we can all revel in. Here is one of my favourite examples of bringing some cosmological perspective to people who crave it, need it, and will be better people because of it.

Neil carries on the tradition of Carl Sagan, not only in the new Cosmos series, but in making accessible a sense beauty and the transcendence only available through scientific eyes.

And for those of you who like a side of social progress with your people of unparalleled brilliance, Neil has that covered too.

There is so much super cool stuff that science can share with us, but many of us may never hear about it. We need more people who will bring the fantastic marvels of the world and the universe to the masses, particularly in way that highlights just how cool it is. How? Just watch the master in action. Watch Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Sometimes “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” just isn’t strong enough. In one of my recent youtube sessions I ran quite the emotional gamut. Let’s start on a high note, shall we?

The Fantastic

First we have a long overdue “Hero of the Day”. For quite some time, the youtuber Vihart has been producing superb content that celebrates the wonders and joys of math. Irresistibly fun, endlessly charming, and mind-blowingly wondrous, Vihart’s videos present math in a delightful and accessible manner. I recommend that everyone take the time to watch as much Vihart as they can, especially educators. This is how math class ought to be. How marvellous it would be if more children played with mobius strips and wanted Mexa-hexa-flexa-gons for supper.

In her latest video, Vihart expands on one of her previous videos and makes a 3D audio braid. You’ll need earphones for this one, or surround sound. Watch, be amazed, delight in the sonic wonders of math.

The Wretched and The “Oh F*ck, No”

Whilst riding this emotional high of mathematical elation and renewed hope for future generations that will still care about math because of extraordinary projects like those by Vihart, I came across this next video. I crashed. I burned. I debated on whether ‘future generations’ was an option we really ought to pursue.

The two stories presented in this video are beyond ludicrous. The staggering amount of harmful stupid and horrific wrongness exposed here boggle the mind. It’s like I’ve been slapped in the face, but the stunned shock will not wear off. Just watch.

If humanity has any hope at all, it is with educators like Vihart. People who make curiosity, learning, science, and math fun. People who find their passion and wonder in reality and share it with the rest of us. The more children (and in turn, the public) are inspired to think, to be inquisitive, to actually care what is real, the less idiocy like that in the last video will be a part of our society.

If you haven’t checked out all the Vihart links in the first part of this post, now is probably a good time. It will make you feel better.

malalayouasfaziI have done a few ‘Hero of the Day’ posts and I have a few more on the way. The recipients have done great work spreading important information, rallying against injustice, educating us masses, and have been generally awesome. But today’s hero is special. On top of those usual achievements, she’s done it all while personally facing off against one of the leading threats to civilization as we know it. Oh, and she’s only 15.

The Taliban, with its “all powerful god”, is threatened by literate females. So much so, it will use brutal violence, murder, torture, and arson to enforce its view that girls should not be allowed in schools. What else would you expect from the “religion of peace”?

Malala Yousafzai, from the Swat district of Pakistan, however, does not agree. With aspirations of becoming a doctor or a politician, Malala is a strong advocate for gender equality, especially for equal access to education. Like many other girls in Swat, Malala has risked her life to attend classes against the wishes of the Taliban. At the same time, she was also doing something extraordinary. Malala, using a pseudonym, started blogging for the BBC, reporting to the world what it was like to be an ordinary child under the Taliban as it destroyed schools and forbade girls from attending the ones they hadn’t destroyed yet.

Adam B. Ellick from the New York Times made a documentary called Class Dismissed profiling Malala, her activism, and the difficulties and dangers for girls wanting to go to school.

Since the documentary, Malala’s has kept on advocating for girl’s education, growing in influence and visibility. This earned her and her father numerous death threats from the Taliban. Undeterred, Malala kept working for equal education opportunities.

On October 9th, 2012, the Taliban tried to make good on its threats. To preserve the glory of Islam an Allah, Malala was shot in the head.

Now recovering in a UK hospital, Malala isn’t done yet. Her message and story are spreading and the world is taking note.

Tarek Fatah, from Toronto, started a petition on change.org to nominate Malala for a Nobel Peace Prize. The response has been tremendous. The Prime Minister and the leaders of all of our major parties have unanimously endorsed this petition. If you haven’t done so already, please sign as well.

In the west we’ve had huge media organizations cower and retreat when islamist extremists raised their hate filled voices. In Swat, a 15 year old girl stood directly against the guns, bombs, soldiers, and machetes wielded by the worst of brutal zealots, just outside her door.

Brilliant. Myles is a fantastic youtuber who is a biochemistry student out of the UK who is currently writing his PhD “Non-Enzymatic Transcription of Nucleic Acids and the Control of Gene Expression using Mutant Riboswitches by Synthetic Guanosine Analogues” (say THAT three times fast) and continually uploads wonderful experiments that entertain and educate and inspire learning (next run to the grocery store, I’m most definitely getting some red cabbage). On top of all that, he debunks asinine claims that can potentially harm society (and you thought I only went after religious nut-bags). Well, I’m running out of parentheses, so without further ado, here’s Myles on the B.S. that is homeopathy.

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