Alan Alda wants to cut the science jargon.
The actor used to host the PBS series "Scientific American Frontiers." He is also a founder and visiting professor of journalism at the Stony Brook University Center for Communicating Science, which was recently named after him. Now he wants to take scientific understanding to a new level.
"There's no reason for the jargon when you're trying to communicate the essence of the science to the public, because you're talking what amounts to jibberish to them," Alda said.
Alda claims that with more easily understood scientific language, consumers will have an easier time understanding what's contained in food products, physicians will have an easier time communicating with their patients and lawmakers may be able to make more prudent decisions on funding scientific research.
Members of Congress are "not going to ask the right questions if science doesn't explain to them what's going on in the most honest and objective way," Alda said. "You can't blame them for not knowing the jargon - it's not their job. Why would anybody put up money for something they don't understand?"
When "Scientific American Frontiers" began winding down in 2005, Alda began looking for a university that shared his interest of making science more communicable. According to Alda, Stony Brook was the only right match, and the center launched in 2009.
"Alan did not casually lend his celebrity to this effort," Stony Brook president Dr. Samuel Stanley said. "He has been a tireless and full partner in the center since its inception. During the past four years, he has traveled thousands of miles championing its activities. ... He has helped train our faculty and develop our curriculum, and he personally teaches some workshops."
Over the past two years the center has sponsored a contest asking students and scientists around the country to answer simple questions like, "What is a flame?" and "What is time?" Alda has helped promote the contest.
Although Alda may no longer be performing operations on M.A.S.H., his involvement in the realm of science is still in full swing.