The dangers of science dissemination

I was very excited to hear that among the projects featured at Subtle Technologies there would be a video featuring a proposal to save Venice from its demise as threatening water is increasingly rising.

Well, I was soon disappointed. the project by Rachel Armstrong might even be a commendable attempt to use protocell technology to create a shield preventing water from literally gobbling Venice. However, an explanation of how these cells might work, what would be the environmental impacts, what are the ethics behind the project were nowhere to be found. What we saw instead, was a celebratory documentary on the scientist (armstrong) ego, who kept self-congratulating on how generous and humble  she was to have embarked in this project .

I understand, as the director claims, that this was a documentary made for redbull media and thus meant for a general audience. however, there is a difference between simplifying scientific facts and make them easier to understand for the lay public AND erasing completely any plausible explanation that might inform the public on such an important issue. I would have understood if he had told me that he was forced to make certain choices, but apparently this was exactly his decision. A message to all aspiring directors: please, don’t treat your public with condescendence! even the most ignorant crowd can be curious and can understand certain scientific notions if explained correctly.

Anyway, the documentary didn’t appear to have been directed by director Styblo, but by the scientist herself. she was portrayed as a lone hero: unbearable slow motion scenes pictured her managing laboratory material while a flock of men  in awe adored her and erupted in never ending compliments. Yes, they were all men. and while I am always impressed to see women achieving success in science among a sea of male scientists, here I was a bit disturbed, as they stood there watching her with (more than)adoring eyes as if she was some sort of  fetish…. probably one of the most sexist portrayal of a woman scientist. But then, her highly sexualized ego didn’t seem to mind that much.

venice itself did not fare well either: a highly romanticized city worth saving ….because it is beautiful. I don’t think that the environment was even mentioned once. The same director will screen a second documentary tomorrow…apparently it had excellent reviews.
let’s hope he hasn’t met another egotistic scientist in search of fame….