Friday, December 14, 2012

Communication of Science Through Art

2012 APS Comic-Con International Team

Since 2008 the APS public outreach team has been publishing comic books.  Starting with Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair as part of the PhysicsQuest program and continuing now with Spectra: Turbulent times, these comics have proven to be more popular than any of us ever thought they would. Recently I (Mathlete and Spectra author) gave a talk at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) about how Spectra was created and why so many people actually read it.  

The AGU conference had many, many outreach and education talks and presentations.  Everything from creating educational video games to how to best graphically represent your data to get your point across.  It was wonderful to see how the society supported these endeavors to the point of having 2-3 sessions a day focused only on outreach and education.  As someone that goes to a lot of conferences, this is rare.

There was one session of talks focused specifically on collaborations between artists and physicists and this was the session in which I spoke.  For years I have been working closely with Kerry Johnson, Art Director of APS to create comics that do a (hopefully) good job combining words and art to entertain but also teach.  I was lucky enough to get to speak in this session.  A lot goes into these comics though it might not be clear from the finished product.  There are no accidents in making these and are reasons we make almost every choice we do.  Many group have tried to teach through comics, some successfully, some unsuccessfully and some that have created great comics haven't been able to get them out to a large audience.  I very much hope we fall into the former category and not the latter ones.

If you would like to hear the behind the scenes creation of "Spectra" you can listen to just my portion of the session here, or view the video below.  The "Spectra" talk begins at 1:34:00.  The entire session is fantastic, so I encourage you to watch it all.  To read the "Spectra" comics you can visit the PhysicsCentral comics page.

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