Andreas Heinrich on Seoul Forum 2019

Andreas Heinrich on the Vital Need for Public Communication at Seoul Forum 2019

JUNE 10, 2019

I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of leading scientists to communicate well with the general public. I believe that with enough thought and care, it is possible to explain even the most complex scientific concepts to an interested person who is willing to learn. Quantum science and nanoscience are both extremely fascinating subjects and very often, I have seen a large enthusiasm from non-scientific audiences to learn more about these fields. A good lecturer, such as the famous physicist Richard Feynman, is able to explain the key concepts of their work to everybody who is willing to listen. However, very unfortunately, modern society teaches us to communicate in short sound bites rather than having a real communication. So the responsibility to communicate well does not only lie with the scientist, it also lies with his or her audience!

The Center for Quantum Nanoscience is part of a larger Korean framework called the Institute for Basic Science. Our core mission is to produce world-class basic science to lay the foundations for future technology innovations. This is in stark contrast to the vast majority of research in Korea which is closely linked to technological developments, an example may be the development of better solar cells. I am personally interested in asking the deep questions such as: “How do the interesting and weird consequences of quantum science get lost when we approach the ‘normal’ length scale that we are used to from every-day life?” In order to make progress towards those research goals we utilize our unique ability to position atoms on surfaces at will, which allows us to go from the study of single atoms to chains of atoms and to even more complex nanostructures.

In the longer term, our research will be applicable to a new field of computation called quantum computation. In quantum computation we are trying to harness the interesting and weird properties of quantum systems to make more powerful computers. These machines will most likely not be universal computers as we know them today but rather specialized in solving certain relevant problems such as optimizing business processes or searching in a large database.

My personal reason to engage with traditional media is in order to be able to communicate with a large readership or viewership. I have given numerous interviews for both print and TV and it is a real pleasure to know that I am able to communicate to a larger audience because of the trust placed in the media institution by its viewers or readers. As such I understand that I have to honor this trust by creating interesting content.

My biggest hit on social media is “The Boy and his Atom”, created to draw young audiences into basic science research. Here at QNS we have created our own YouTube channel called “QNS science”. For this channel, we are producing original and educational clips that explain difficult concepts in a fun an engaging way to non-scientific audiences. Once we move into our new building on the campus of Ewha Womans University in July, we are planning to host events for social media influencers as well as the general public in order to show that cutting edge science is fun and exciting!

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