SCIENCE AND FICTION AT UNIVERSITY. HOW SCIENCE FICTION CAN (OR NOT) EXPLAIN SOME CHEMISTRY, BIOCHEMISTRY AND SCIENCE CONCEPTS
1 Institut Obert de Catalunya (SPAIN)
2 University of Barcelona (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:Science fiction is “a realistic speculation about possible future events, solidly based on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.” Fantasy is the impossible made probable; science fiction is the improbable made possible but sometimes it is difficult to discern science from science fiction.
Barcelona University and other Spanish universities are integrated in the European Higher Education Area where ECTS credits are a necessary approach to develop the academic support of students. These ECTS classroom activities are used to increase both the students’ knowledge and motivation. During the first year at Barcelona University, in a biochemistry teamwork activity, students have to analyse the difference between science and fiction. By using the scientific method they have to conclude and explain why certain facts apparently possible in chemistry and biochemistry fiction, are actually impossible in reality.
The topics of these science-fiction presentations and discussions are:
1) Comic superheroes, who are not bound by the laws of chemistry such as: a) Sandman who, on a beach, come into contact with sand that had been irradiated by an experimental reactor. His body and the radioactive sand bonded and in consequence changed his molecular structure into sand. b) Iceman is able to manipulate ice and cold temperatures, meaning that he can freeze anything around him while Human Torch can engulf his entire body in flames; both abilities show a tight relationship with energy management (thermodynamics). c) Spiderman after being bitten by a radioactive spider has gained some special abilities and needs a high protein diet to develop his spider web.
2) Cinema and television contents can be used as an inciting tool to initiate the students to scientific knowledge and controversies in an educational and enjoyable way. The possibility of time travel and travelling forward into the future or Jurassic Park are examples discussed by students.
3) Imaginary interviews. In teamwork students provide information about some of the most influencing chemist and biochemists of all time. Students, hypothetically, address ten questions to the chosen (bio-) chemist; the answer to each question will bring them closer to a better understanding of the work of their particular scientist.
In the context of (bio-) chemical education this science-fiction activity could be useful to ensure that students acquire science thinking.
Keywords: Science, fantasy, fiction, teamwork, university.