Nobel winner bewails dip in science zeal

Bangkok Post, 9. February 2013

Nobel Laureate Harold Kroto has expressed his concerns over a dwindling interest in science among both students and teachers, despite technology becoming ever-more crucial.

Prof Kroto, a British expert in online science education, told the Bangkok Post that personal beliefs and superstition still hold a greater influence on people than facts with scientific grounds.

"People don't know what's going on with the world [in terms of science] despite the fact that their lives now rely on technology," he said.

"The majority of people accept something simply because they want to accept it. They allow themselves not to think.

"[As they grow up], children often lose their natural curiosity, which is very important for scientific progress."

At the same time, many science teachers do not have a passion for the subject and this affects the quality of their teaching, Prof Kroto said.

"Teachers must work to unlock the creative potential of children," he said.

Prof Kroto said teachers must instruct their students how to think, not what to think."

The Nobel laureate visited Thailand as a key speaker at the fourth annual "Bridges: Dialogues Toward a Culture of Peace" event, which was staged by the International Peace Foundation.

Under the Bridges programme, Nobel laureates from all fields are visiting Thailand and Vietnam between November and next month to offer their perspectives at forums hosted by local institutions.

Prof Kroto was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1996 for his discovery of the carbon compound called fullerenes and the carbon element buckminsterfullerene (C60).

His discoveries opened up an entirely new branch of chemistry.

Since 2004, he has held the Francis Eppes Professorship in the chemistry department at Florida State University and works in nanoscience and nanotechnology research.

He set up Vega Science Trust, a British educational charity in 1995, and the Geoset project which offers a collection of short and engaging educational science videos available online.