Sunday, April 29, 2012

In Defense of TED

There was some TEDMED bashing going on in the comments to an article in the Washington Post, and I felt compelled to come to TED's defense. My comment raises an important point about communication and promotion of science to the general public—a topic near & dear—so I'd like to re-post it here and add some follow up thoughts.

The situation: some scientist types in the comments were slamming the whole TED enterprise with statements like:
TEDMED is for self-promoters, not scientists. 
Real scientists don't have time for this.
No working scientist in the field of human genetics pays attention to any form. 
My reaction:
Have to disagree. Science needs the TED hype machine, big time. Events like TEDMED provide a worthy service in promoting science and showcasing scientists to the general public. Scientists can use all the PR help they can get in making their work exciting and connecting with the masses (which funds most research here in the U.S.). 
TED encourages more public engagement in science & technology -- something that is especially important now given the trouble we're having with basic science literacy and graduating more science and engineering majors.
Real scientists should appreciate anyone talking up science, especially high-profile figures that have the broader cultural reach practicing scientists can't attain (since they're busy doing science and cranking out those papers). 
Yet science spokespeople that don't have sufficiently scientific credentials are frequently dissed by the scientific elite. Recent example: Alan Alda on Science Friday was dubbed by a caller as an "offense to science" since he's not a trained, practicing scientist.
Real scientists may be too busy doing science to pay attention to TED, but millions of real people do tune in, and that's real good, IMHO.
And BTW, there were some real scientists at TEDMED2012: Eisen, Petsko, Butte, among others.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jack LaLanne Thoughts

Today marks one year since Jack LaLanne passed away. I want to use this space to collect some thoughts on his life and legacy. This is at present just a preliminary post. Stay tuned for updates.

The image at right is from the LATimes collection of 'Notable deaths of 2011'. Their obituary was one of the best out there and is one of many that came flooding in from every major new source after Jack died on 23 Jan 2011.

Regarding the "for the record" note in the LATimes obit regarding Vic Tanny opening a gym before Jack did: Jack actually started a gym in 1931 while still in high school (mentioned in the Larry King interview video clip below). He trained policemen and firefighters and was the first to have progressive weight training.

Words with Larry King 

Jack gave a great interview with Larry King on 17 July 2000 when he was 86 (see the complete transcript and a short video of a portion). Here are some JLL quotes from that interview that sum up his main messages about health & fitness:

• "If man makes it, don't eat it. Stick to as close to nature as you can."
• "It's not what you do every once in a while, it's what you do every day."
• "I have never really liked to exercise but I like the results!"
• "Exercise is king, nutrition is queen, put them together you've got a kingdom."
• "Anything in life is possible. Make it happen. It starts in your brain. There's really no limit. The limit is between your ears."
• "You help you. We must take responsibility for ourselves."
• "You don't die of old age, you die of neglect."
• "I can't afford to die, it'll wreck my image."
• "Break the monotony of your workouts. You're doing something different, you're muscles respond, you prevent injuries."
• "If you're overweight, you have to count calories. Period."
• Regarding daily workouts: "Everyday I don't want to do it. But I kick the devil off my shoulder, 'Get outta here!' and I workout. The next thing I do is I look in the mirror and say, 'Jack, you've done it again!'."
• Message to today's youth: "There are two things in this life that you have to develop: pride & discipline."
• "You've got to use every joint in you're body. Completely extend & contract."
• "Always keep your stomach tight."
• "Your health account & your bank account are synonymous: the more you put in, the more you can take out."
• "So many of you people are lounging, just sitting there on your big backsides, and you're fat and out of shape, and you're praying to God, 'Dear God, please!' God is not going to do anything, you've got do it! God gives you the power to do it. God helps them that help themselves, and I hope that each and everyone of you helps the most important person on this earth, YOU!"

Jack LaLanne Day

For the past several years, I've been promoting the idea of designating Jack's birthday (26 September) an international day of health. I've also been leading free, monthly core workouts for JLL "check-in" days in the SF Bay area, since one day per year for fitness doesn't really cut it. See for details.

More to come...

This post isn't complete. Check back soon for updates.