Alan Alda Shares His Passion to Help Scientists Communicate
Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Alan Alda, the legendary, award-winning actor and author and visiting professor and co-founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, who shares his passion for helping scientists communicate more effectively.
"Why can't we train scientists while we're training them to be scientists, train them to be good communicators? Everything would benefit. Science would benefit. Funding would get better. Congress would suddenly understand what scientists want the money for, and other scientists would understand scientists who are not exactly in their field. Everything would improve. And we'd have... the best thing was people like me, the ordinary people who are not trained in science, we'd have this wonderful chance to understand the beauties of nature in a way that only scientists understand it. Why can't he be president? I'm sorry. [laughter] I am honored... we at public broadcasting, at One On One, at the Tisch WNET Studio, are honored to have Alan Alda, actor... as if I need to say that, writer, professor, co-founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communication... Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Oh my God. Thank you so much. Thank you. That's very nice of you. Can we jump right into this? By the way, if you want to... Yeah. ...check out... you may not know, but Alan Alda did a little work in TV? [laughter] M*A*S*H, '72 to '83. I thought that you would say that I had a little work... Hawkeye Pierce. Check out that, check out so many other things that he has done. Scientific Ameri... and by the way, PBS, you've been tied to our PBS family for many years? That's right. Yeah. We did Scientific American Frontiers for 11 years on PBS. Right. And by the way, the other thing I need to say is your wonderful wife, Arlene, was with us right here, sitting in that seat, talking about the Bronx and all the work that she's done in that area. A wonderful book. Just Kids from the Bronx. Just Kids from the Bronx? We should get two for one out of this! [laughter] Listen, let's jump into this. Your communication, your focus, healthy obsession with communication and the fact that in your book, the introduction is that one of the worst things about communication, the quote is, "the illusion that it actually took place"? Right. Because it makes sense to you. You think you communicated everything you needed to say in the most exact proper way. Accurate. But the other person doesn't know what you're talking about sometimes. A good deal of the time. Sure. When did you realize this was a real problem? Communicating? You know, I started to realize I had a vague awareness that people weren't understanding me a good deal of the time. But it really hit me strongly one time, when I was in the dentist's office, and he was..."