Science Topics Find an Audience in Social Media

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The largest and most sophisticated rover landed safely on Mars and the world’s most famous Moon visitor died, but the space event that most captured the public’s imagination in 2012 involved a journey to Earth.


On Oct. 14, YouTube counted 52 million streams of the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic, record-breaking jump from a balloon 24 miles above the New Mexico desert. YouTube called it “one of the most-viewed live events ever,” and it landed at No. 10 on the video-sharing site’s year-end trending list — the first time a science-related subject made the list, a YouTube spokeswoman said. (Google listed the leap as No. 7 in its Zeitgeist 2012 of trending events.)

And it was far from the only science story to go viral. To put it in 140 characters or less, social media and science found each other in 2012.

In surprising numbers, people posted, viewed and searched for science-related topics last year — sharing news from space and undersea, commenting on new discoveries and uploading photos and video in a full-out embrace of the ability to communicate with thousands of others about global subjects in real time.

The first Twitter message on Aug. 5 from @MarsCuriosity, NASA’s official rover handle — “Gale Crater I Am in You!!!” — was retweeted more than 72,000 times. Photos of the space shuttle Endeavour flying over the West Coast, on its way to its final resting place, ricocheted across the planet. And the director James Cameron’s claim to have sent the “deepest tweet” — from the Mariana Trench, about seven miles below the surface of the Pacific — was rated one of Twitter’s “moments of serendipity and just plain awesomeness” (though it was actually sent by a friend above water). Four science-related events made that list, with the Mars landing at No. 1.In an age of despair over math and science acuity, it appears that what was once considered uninteresting or unfathomable has become cool and exciting.

Written By: Mary Ann Giordano
continue to source article at nytimes.com

7 COMMENTS

  1. I can certainly confirm this from my little corner. As it happens, I have lots of geeky FB friends, and I belong to “I fucking love science”, so i get daily doses of science, flashy and otherwise, and there’s never a final exam. Social media is what you make of it, and my online friends are sufficiently varied that I can get tons of high-quality information on science, politics, global events, etc. as well as thousands of cute baby-animal pictures. Frankly, I appreciate them all. I also get treacly ‘trust in God’ posts, but counter with articles from the RD site, and these often elicit vigorous debate.

  2. Umm. I went off on a tangent. I meant to say that yeah, I see tons of science in the highly digestible form of You tube videos (sent to me on FB), and while most do not surpass “pop” science, they ARE science, including the likes of Niels deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox, and Stephen Hawking. Youtube and scientific FB pages have made ongoing scientific discoveries part of the everyday online dialog and that’s got to be a wonderful thing.

  3. Sorry, am not impressed by Herr Baumgartner’s effort. He didn’t jump, he fell; with all the high tech equipment and research, his input was minimal. Courage? Yes, some. Publicity, certainly. What did he actually achieve that would benefit humanity- nothing?

  4. I remember hearing at the time that about half the people watching the jump live on youtube switched off when Baumgartner’s parachute deployed successfully and it became clear that he wasn’t going to become the latest recipient of the Darwin Award and they weren’t watching a live snuff movie. Sorta makes you rethink events such as the Apollo 13 splashdown in the 70s which garnered a worldwide television audience of 28.6 million viewers, all of whom of course were praying for the astronauts’ survival.

    Maybe Ron Howard, in the interests of artistic verisimilitude, should add a few seconds of footage to his movie of a few people in polyester shirts watching tv going “Rats!” when the capsule opens and Tom Hanks, Bill Pullman/Paxton and Gary Sinise climb out unharmed.

    @Nodhimmi,

    Baumgartner proved that a human being could survive breaking the sound barrier while not in a vehicle. I don’t know if anybody was claiming that this was not possible, but if they were it clears it up for anyone in the future who may need to perform this action in order to survive. This would seem to be a benefit to humanity.

  5. The capsule jump was an extreme sport event. The world cup is a science event if you push it. Ball technology, HD camera technology, sod technology but they are not really science events and people aren’t watching for the science they are watching it because of the science.

    More people are searching for science related stuff but more people are searching for all kinds of stuff. I’m sure, stupid pictures of cats is still killing science 50 to 1.

    What will be promising to see is science becoming cool. Then people who don’t give a damn will learn anyway because being cool is what matters.

    The rover on Mars; however, is a science event and there was no Red Bull logo on it. If there were, it would be cool because a worshiped brand told its followers to think it is cool. I can’t believe Mars Bar hasn’t been a sponsor on every single trip to the red planet. They should send a Mars Bar to Mars, wrapped in Aluminum.

  6. “Better than SpaceX”?!? Good, healthy competition.

    Carl the Sage <3

    science – cool and exciting

    Maybe social media is what it will take for students to go beyond
    admiring all the neat science stuff, and actively pursue jobs in engineering, cosmology, nature, etc. Hope so!

  7. @Nodhimmi,

    Baumgartner proved that a human being could survive breaking the sound barrier while not in a vehicle. I don’t know if anybody was claiming that this was not possible, but if they were it clears it up for anyone in the future who may need to perform this action in order to survive. This would seem to be a benefit to humanity.

    This is sardonic, right?
    BTW- he was indeed in a vehicle- that space suit qualifies!

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