Norman Hascoe Distinguished Lecture Series

Science, Society and Sustainability

Professor Harold Kroto
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
The Florida State University

The fact that our modern world is so completely and precariously balanced on Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) makes the relationship of Science with Society and issues of Sustainability vital topics for discussion. So far SET have truly revolutionised our lives and there is no doubt that the humanitarian contributions of SET have improved the quality of life of those in the developed world immeasurably. As but one of infinite examples, in the 18th century almost half of all children died by the age of 8. The improvement - in the developed world - was brought about by scientific methodology based on doubt and questioning, a philosophy completely orthogonal to the belief-based concepts that underpin mystical societal attitudes. Society has the power to use technology so that it is can benefit us or be detrimental. It is now becoming clear that our technologies have also catalysed a mindless mass-production driven plundering of the Planet's resources, which could be hurtling us towards disaster - we don't need an asteroid. For a 50:50 chance of surviving into the next century, every segment of society from industrialists, engineers and scientists to politicians, farmers and fishermen must now take this matter as the most serious issue the world has ever confronted.

Our only hope for survival rests on the shoulders of those who take sustainability issues seriously and do something about it. I see a key role for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (N&N) which is just a new name for a vast swathe of incredibly varied Chemistry in the atom/molecule scale region where this discipline overlaps Physics, Biology and Engineering.

The Internet is a major new communications technology which we must exploit to educate people on a global scale that rational attitudes are now vital to our very survival. With the Vega Science Trust, (, which has now made some 120 TV and Internet programmes (55 shown on the BBC), we have created a platform for scientists to communicate directly and improve the public awareness and understanding of SET. Furthermore with a new Global Educational Outreach (GEO) initiative based at Florida State we are further extending the capability of the Internet to help teachers in any part of the world. A key hope is to set off a chain reaction by getting universities and schools worldwide to set up similar initiatives. The immediate focus will be to empower teachers worldwide by giving them access to the best teaching material, packaged for direct use in the classroom, together with expert examples of how the material might be presented. The prototype GEO site is to be found at (and click "GEO"). The new recording technology allows us to create inexpensive, effective teaching programmes and make them available globally.

"There is a TV set in almost every village in the world. We should surely be able to get the Internet into every school."

Monday, October 22, 2007
4:00 PM
Gant Science Complex
Physics Department
Room P38

(Refreshments will follow, with a panel discussion at 5:30 PM.)

© 2008 Department of Physics, University of Connecticut
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