KEYNOTE | CHARLES ADLER

The Importance of Storytelling: A Scientist’s Perspective

There are a lot of books which try to explain some aspect of science or another to the general public, and many, many more scientific articles written for specialized audiences.  I am going to make the claim that one of the big things separating the good from the bad is storytelling:  how well the authors compel their audiences to “willingly suspend disbelief.”  I think that one key feature of this is generosity: the willingness of the author to understand and empathize with their audience.  I will provide a few examples of my favorite writings (and a few that aren’t), and discuss some highly subjective ideas about what makes good science writing.


Charles Adler
is professor of physics at St. Mary’s College, Maryland

Chuck has been a member of the Physics faculty at St. Mary’s College for the past 23 years. He received his doctorate in laser physics from Brown University in 1992. He is the author of over 40 scientific papers and the popular book Wizards, Aliens and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction. The book won several awards, including the 2015 Science Communication Award of the American Institute of Physics. His Great Courses lecture series, “How Science Shapes Science Fiction,” was recently released by the Teaching Company.