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"Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style" has been 30 years in the making. It draws on Randy Olson's 15 years as a scientist (Ph.D. Harvard University, tenured professor at University of New Hampshire), followed by 15 years of making films (In 1994 he resigned from his marine biology professorship in, moved to Hollywood, entered film school, and took acting classes). The book opens with the pivotal moment in his journey -- his first night of acting class when his psychotic acting teacher screamed her lungs out at him for being, "too cerebral." Thus began his journey of realization that came full circle when he returned to working with scientists and science communicators, and began to concede his acting teacher wasn't as crazy as he originally thought. In this short book he draws together what he's learned about communicating science to the general public, and offers up his observations in the form of four main chapters which he calls, "The Admonitions." They are:

1 Don't Be So Cerebral
2 Don't Be So Literal Minded
3 Don't Be Such a Poor Storyteller
4 Don't Be So Unlikeable

In an effort to practice what he preaches, Olson infuses the book with plenty of humor, storytelling, and even a little bit of emotion.


“You think too much! You mother F@$#%&* think too much! You’re nothing but an arrogant, pointy headed intellectual—I want you out of my classroom.”
—Hollywood acting teacher to Randy Olson, former scientist

After nearly a decade on the defensive, the world of science is about to be restored to its rightful place. But is the American public really ready for science? And is the world of science ready for the American public?

Scientists wear ragged clothes, forget to comb their hair, and speak in a language that even they don’t understand. Or so people think. Most scientists don’t care how they are perceived, but in our media-dominated age, style points count.

Enter Randy Olson. Fifteen years ago, Olson, a Harvard Ph.D. and former tenured professor of marine biology at the University of New Hampshire, bid farewell to the science world and shipped off to Hollywood. With films like Flock of Dodos (Tribeca ‘06, Showtime) and Sizzle (Outfest ‘08), he has tried to bridge the cultural divide that has too often left science on the outside looking in.

Olson’s new book Don’t Be Such a Scientist delivers the message that "scientists need artists." He delves into the principle of "arouse and fulfill," suggesting that while scientists are great with the fulfillment part, the power of art can help arouse the interest of the broader audience. In an age of information overload, the communication challenge is even greater for science. Drawing on communication theory, storytelling dynamics, and his own observations from a career in science, Olson makes the case that while accuracy is forever important, a priority must be made by the science community to grab the public's attention.

© 2009 Prairie Starfish Productions