The magic of science popularization - My top 5 most significant encounters

Dear members of the MyScienceWork community,

When I think of the term “science popularization,” two references spontaneously come to my mind: “Once Upon a Time,” and, “It’s Not a Sorcerer” (educational programs like "The Magic School Bus" and "Bill Nye the Science Guy"). These two TV programs excited me for science. Each shared a common point: the ability to make science fun, playful; learning and fun could, in fact, be simultaneous.  


(Find the newsletter this is written for here.)

In 2010 when MyScienceWork was just beginning, the project was very much inspired by popular science of the time, and 8 years later, that is still the case. Our team and project has crossed paths countless times with science journalists, translators, filmmakers, cartoonists, and communities of science enthusiasts.

I could tell you about the work the team has done on the popularization of thesis work. And I could also tell you about the fantastic coordination I witnessed between a young filmmaker and a young actor, and young researchers to create the web series Knock Knock Doc, available on YouTube.  

But instead, I choose to share with you my experiences with particular individuals, researchers who have had resilient passion throughout the story of their lives. I want to use this editorial to tell you about my encounters with these people who marked me with their kindness, passion, and extreme generosity.  

Over the years that I have spent in Europe and in the United States, I have collected several anecdotes that demonstrate the impact of science popularization on myself and society. Popularizing one’s own research is already increasing the understanding of it by the public, valuing it. This exercise is simple and subtle, yet exciting and risky. 


Here are my TOP 5 encounters:


TOP 5. Michel Fournier and his obsession with jumping from 40,000 meters in the sky.

This is the story of a man who had been dreaming of going to space since he was a child. His goal is simple: to free fall from 40,000 meters in the air for 7 minutes and 25 seconds with stratospheric equipment in order to break four world records: 1. The record for the greatest jump altitude in free fall, 2. The record for the greatest flight altitude of a human under a hot air balloon, 3. the record for the amount of time a person remains in free fall and 4. the record for the greatest speed obtained while free falling. For now, Michal hopes to find the funding to achieve this dream. This man, more that 70 years of age at the time of this encounter, had the spirit of a child. It was a wonderful meeting.

Find his interview here.


TOP 4. André Brahic, a famous astrophysicist.  

Where do we come from? Are we alone in the universe? How did the solar system come into being? These questions, as well as so many more, are the questions of which André devoted his entire career. He is a very classy man, brillant with a love to popularize science. Since our interview, he has departed, but we have made a tribute in his memory


TOP 3. André Brack and his search for extraterrestrials life.

André is one of the pioneers of exobiology, also known as the biological search for extraterrestrial life. For more than 35 years, he has been interested in the origin of life on Earth and in the Universe. This man, who enjoys popularizing his work, dreams of living in his Mars Attack and looks forward to meeting an extraterrestrial being whether it is friendly or not!

Find the interview on our blog!


TOP 2. Hubert Reeves, a great scientific communicator, astrophysicist, and ecologist. 

In this story, Hubert came to us at the Paris office of MyScienceWork to talk about sustainable development. The astrophysicist marveled at all the beauties of nature throughout his life, and is therefore incredibly involved in the defense of the environment and takes a critical look at the science behind it. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet yet another great man of science with a big heart and love for life.


Find the interview here: "Investir dans la recherche relance l'économie"


TOP 1. Dani Lary, the greatest magician in Europe.

To meet with Dany, we traveled to his home which is near Valence in the South of France. He was waiting for us when we arrived and had cleared his day to give us a tour of his house, introduce us to his family, and show us his many rooms filled with magic sets. This was an incredible, mystical day that was truly magical. The purpose of this visit was to better understand his path to success and what role science has played in magic and how it’s function has evolved over the years. At the end of the day, he lent us two original books of Houdini, his grand master, which he inherited. I enjoyed reading these magic books-you can discover the tips and tricks that magicians played during the time of Houdin, Meliès, and Houdini.


To know more, find the article on the blog in French and in English.


And tied for TOP 1: Aubrey de Gray and his fascination with immortality.

This encounter happened in Palo Alto, California. We were sitting in a bar when we saw an unusual character arrive. With his long mystical beard, he spoke with us for more than 3 hours about immortality and his theory that we will all live to be older than 1,000 years.


Read more about the beginnings of MyScienceWork in Silicon Valley, including this encounter with Aubrey de Gray, on the blog and check out his TedTalk!


To all science lovers, I hope you, too, encounter inspirational individuals that last with you throughout your lifetimes. 

Virginie Simon.