Feb 25

Hello, My Name is Brittany, and I’m an Ernst

There’s a moment in the old Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson when the two boys are discussing their reading habits with a young lady named Roberta. It goes something like this:

Roberta ‘Bertie’: Do you read a lot, Fritz?
Ernst Robinson: Who, him? He practically doesn’t ever read at all!
Fritz Robinson: Never really needed to. Sooner or later, Ernst tells me everything he knows.

That snippet has stuck with me since I saw it as a child. Probably because I’m a notable, and incurable Ernst. I do love reading and finding out new information. But it’s not quite enough for me to unearth some shiny, interesting fact and treasure it all to myself. I have to run out and show the first person I can find, so they can revel in the coolness of this new information, too.

At times growing up this meant I was an insufferable know-it-all, because I hadn’t learned the best way of sharing information, yet. And it has also meant that my contributions to dinner conversation beginning “Did you know . . . “ can be met with groaning. In fact, at one point, my exasperated mother had to request that I stop educating anyone who hadn’t asked to be educated. (And she was not interested in my rationale that someone stating an incorrect fact qualified as someone clearly eager to be corrected.)

My sister and I demonstrating the range of excitement about science and learning.

My sister and I demonstrate the range of excitement about science and learning with the help of an elephant seal statue.

But most of the time, people are excited about, or at least interested, in learning the new fact. And sometimes (and this is the most fun) they catch the spark themselves and get just as excited as I am, which means it’s time to go dig up more cool facts together. This insatiable desire to find and share fascinating information is what led me to become a science writer.

See, now did some of you just zone out? I’m told that the word “science” is boring and off-putting. Which is weird, isn’t it? “Science” comes from the Latin (stay with me!) for “to know.” And who doesn’t like knowing things?

Little kids are all interested in science, without having to be inveigled. The problem comes in school when we’re introduced to science as a stodgy, dry list of facts to memorize. When instead, really it’s a living spectrum of stories and unexpected connections. Even myself, a dyed-in-the-wool science-phile was (temporarily) turned off biology by an overly didactic high school teacher.

This is sad, and tragic. For all sorts of political and educational reasons, yes, but also for personal ones. It is so cool and satisfying to understand the basis for how the world works. There are so many surprising and delicious facts and stories to share.

Of course the real tragedy is when subsets of people start treating science as an exclusionary tactic—a door to slam in the face of others. You know these people. They deliberately use vocab and reference arcane concepts to build up their own ego at the expense of others. Science can and should be the most inclusive field on the planet. It’s right up there with communication and psychology in basic human interests, if only we could get over the jargon and the intimidation.

While in grad school, training to be a science writer, we were all coming up with the highfaluting titles we’d call our weekly columns, once we got them. Mine may even have been “Species Richness.” But one of my friends corrected me, “No, of course yours would be called ‘Isn’t That Cool?'” because of the number of times I had, apparently, shared some novel information and appended that phrase.

The world is full of amazing information, treasures to be discovered and shared, and I’ve yet to meet a person who couldn’t be interested in one facet of it or another, especially if the information is conveyed clearly and with enthusiasm.

That’s what I hope to do in this blog: Bring amazing, interesting, isn’t-that-COOL facts to people who will be glad to hear them, and share wonderful stories.


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  1. Sarah C.P. Williams

    Yay! I’m so excited you’re blogging! I just subscribed to your RSS so I won’t miss anything 🙂

  2. Mary

    Indeed I want to learn some super cool things, especially from someone as excited as you. Thanks Brittany! Bring it!!

  3. Greg

    Looking forward to learning something new!

  4. Amanda Hill

    Well isn’t that cool!!! I love that your doing this. As you have educated me many times as you have sat in my chair.

  5. Adidas Jeremy Scott

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  6. r4i

    I appreciate you sharing this article post.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

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  8. Carte R4

    This was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

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    great blog! the information you provide is quiet helpful, why i was not able to find it earlier. anyways i’ve subscribed to your feeds, keep the good work up.

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