Following on the heels of Kelly's post about science communications and the general public: The Amygdaloids! This is a group of scientists who also happen to be musicians. They write and perform funny, educational tunes about various aspects of brain function, including emotional regulation and memory. And that's a good thing! Check 'em out.
And so now I have to climb up on my soapbox for a minute--not that I think Kelly said the things I'm about to take issue with, but her post got me all revved up.
I wholeheartedly reject the idea that presenting scientific information in a manner that can be understood by non-scientists is (necessarily) "dumbing down." On the contrary, it takes a special set of skills to do it effectively and responsibly. And if you can make it interesting and fun, on top of that? Better yet.
I also reject the idea that the average person is just too dumb to understand complex scientific concepts (while freely admitting that there are certainly more advanced/esoteric levels of understanding that the average person can't grok without lots more training ... but, then, I would also suggest that most people don't actually need that level of understanding anyway).
Both of these positions -- "explaining = dumbing down" and "people are too dumb to get it anyway" -- tick me off, frankly. I believe that scientists have an obligation to educate the rest of us, and that shirking that duty speaks of laziness, elitism, or both. So there.
Yes, it's a problem that the American public doesn't understand science well enough to play their part in a participatory democracy where billions and billions* of dollars are spent on science. So let's do something about it! Let's stop penalizing scientists --"they can't possibly be doing cutting-edge science, or they wouldn't be mucking around with the public "-- who try to bring regular folk into the magic circle by sharing their knowledge and excitement about science. Who is science for, anyway?! Let's train scientists to articulate what they do and why it's important, so that they can make cogent arguments in favor of funding priorities and public policy, and maybe also entice youngsters into science careers.
This is what I *heart* about education: everybody wins! So why the resistance, I wonder?
edited to add this link to an xkcd cartoon that makes the point more directly. I'm with Zombie Feynman!
*with a nod to Carl Sagan, who did his best to bring way-cool science to the masses and was downgraded in the scientific community as a result.