Representations of science and technology


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If there is a peculiarity in the way of doing science and in the way of communicating science in Brazil, it is in the use of the idea of "deficit" in political and economic discourses, as well as in the discourses of socio-technical networks. Our proposal here is not to affirm or reject the existence of this deficit, but rather to understand its workings and its construction as a way of bringing about networks of interest that make use of this idea. For us, this is not an idea which is restricted to the discourse of researchers or of journalists and scientific broadcasters; there is also an echo in the general society, and in different spheres and situations. The idea of deficit with regard to scientific knowledge is functional in Brazil, in conjunction with the idea that the country itself has a deficiency in relation to developed countries. It is as if there were two levels of deficit which join together and empower each other.


The objective of the present paper is an attempt to measure the public understanding of science in the area of health and hygiene and test the efficacy of "cultural distance model". A pre-tested open-ended questionnaire was used for administering cross-sectional surveys at a religio-cultural festival in India. 3484 individuals were interviewed and responses were coded and entered to construct computer database. The data was used for determining the cultural distance of five scientific concepts from the quotidian life of the target population. In developing countries, the formal system of modern education operates as a strong determinant in shaping cultural structures of thoughts prevalent among the citizens. There exists a cultural distance between the scientific structure of configuring natural occurrences and peoples' complexity of thoughts. The distance varies significantly across the concepts that were subjected to the inspection and is a function of the nature of scientific information.


The use of photography in the field of psychiatry is an eloquent example of the complex evolution of the relationship between science, communication and society. The research that follows analyses the development of such a relationship in a crucial period of the history of psychiatry: the 1970s. That was the time that witnessed the revolution of a science which admitted the failure of its methods and "instruments", mental hospitals. That was also the time when a profound change took place in the communicative methods of photography related to this uncertain field of knowledge. A group of photographers, driven by the political situation of the time, covered the end of mental hospitals.


According to Einstein's renowned declaration, for those who believe in physics ­ or, more precisely, in its capability to offer a "scientific" representation of the world ­ the distinction between present, past and future is just "an illusion, though obstinate". If we consider an effective analogy by Mauro Dorato, we can state that those who agree with the famous German scientist will recognize in the present, past and future a relationship very similar to that between "here" and "somewhere else" ­ in other words, the present is just a located moment and has no privileged status.


The aim of this project is to communicate the basic laws of particle physics with Feynman diagrams - visual tools which represent elementary particle processes. They were originally developed as a code to be used by physicists and are still used today for calculations and elaborations of theoretical nature. The technical and mathematical rules of Feynman diagrams are obviously the exclusive concern of physicists, but on a pictorial level they can help to popularize many concepts, ranging from matter and the antimatter; the creation, destruction and transformation of particles; the role of "virtual" particles in interactions; the conservation laws, symmetries, etc.


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