It’s a quarter to one in the morning Eastern Time, and I’ve just polished off the last question of the day on I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here!  I should be heading off to bed, but I wanted to capture some initial thoughts on this exercise first.

I’ve lost count of how many questions I’ve answered today – hundreds it seem (although it’s probably less).  I did see a note come round earlier that 1000 questions have already been answered by the team of scientists – and it’s just the first day.

Watching the reactions of my fellow contestants on Twitter, I think we’ve all had the same experience – gobsmacked by the volume and depth of the questions, followed by a rather rapid recalibration of how we go about answering them!

In fact this has had me intrigued – so far the event hasn’t so much been about scientists educating students, as students training scientists – training them to listen to what’s being asked, and to reply concisely and in terms that the questioner can understand.  It’s been a fascinating process to watch.  And judging by the speed with which peoples’ style of reply has evolved, it’s been a very successful process!

There’s also been a certain amount of humility in the scientists’ camp today, as we’ve all facing hard lessons in acknowledging what we don’t know!  The thing with teenagers – as we’re discovering first hand – is that they’re not scared to ask questions older people think they should know the answers to.  Which is why questions like “how does magnetism work” have thrown even seasoned physicists into disarray!

Just browsing through the questions I’ve had, they have covered everything from global warming ,to risks and safety, to what it’s like being a scientist, to animal testing.  I’ve even been asked rather personal questions about what I believe, and how much I earn (maybe inadvisedly, I’m adopting a policy of openness and transparency here – it’ll be interesting to see how long it lasts!).

Altogether a tough day, but a good one (and I haven’t even had a Live Chat yet, where the students bombard you with questions in real time!).

Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

And on a slightly different note, I wanted to highlight an article published today by I’m A Scientist producer Sophia Collins.  In it she makes an incredibly important point:

[A]sk me what I think the most important impact of this is and I’ll tell you this: the majority of today’s teenagers are not destined to become scientists, but they will all be people and citizens.

They’ll all have votes to cast, goods to buy, decisions to make. I want them to be doing that with some ability to think about the issues surrounding science. I don’t want them swayed by yuck factors or scaremongering that plays fast and loose with the facts. I also don’t want them making decisions in wilful ignorance, rejecting the evidence out of hand because they feel patronised and belittled by a science they perceive as elite or aloof. I want them to feel entitled to discuss the issues and equipped to do it, because only then will they come to a considered view.

Despite the hard work, this is exactly why I am so excited to be a part of this, and I suspect why a number of my colleagues are.

But more of that later.  For now, bed – before the next onslaught of questions begins!

You can see all of my answered questions here.

Andrew Maynard