Thursday, August 19, 2010...9:00 am

The appliance of science

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Regular readers will be aware that Freelance Unbound has a habit of taking the modern media to task for being, basically, scientifically and statistically illiterate.
Clearly though, the blog risks ending up a hostage to fortune, as I inevitably make the same mathematical and scientific errors that I castigate others for.
For this reason, I have embarked on a bold, if not foolhardy, project. From October, I plan to start a science degree with the OU. This is partly to gain some kind of scientific credibility (a vain hope), and also as a kind of challenging hobby. I am, essentially, doing it for fun.
Thrillingly, all the course materials for the first unit (S104 – Exploring Science!) were delivered yesterday – and it’s a mark of how sad and geeky my life has become that it really was exciting to get the package.
There are eight shiny new course books, two DVDs (sadly, no late night videotaping of beardy men on BBC 2), and a small box of rocks, which, I gather, is my “practical project work”.
I was intrigued to see that the very first book, which I assume will introduce the entire topic of science to me and be the foundation of all the degree work yet to come, is not, say, “Book 1: Scientific Method”, but is instead, “Book 1: Global Warming”. I suspect this indicates that the pressures of fashion and marketing are felt as much at the OU as they are in the media.
Nonetheless, the OU has glowing reports from all who know it, and an increasingly high reputation for higher education excellence. I am looking forward to falling flat on my face in the coming months and years as my over-confidence trips me up.
It’s also been interesting to experience academia from the student’s perspective. I’ve been used to critiquing student work and brushing aside their pleas to tell them what will and will not get marks. Now the boot is on the other foot – I hope to gain at least a little humility from facing the same kind of trials that my journalism undergraduates do. At least my lousy work will be largely spelled correctly though…


  • The OU course combined with your recent post about moving ‘house’ makes it sound like you’re away for a stretch.

  • They got me bang to rights…

  • Hey! I’ve only recently become a regular reader of your blog and it’s spooky that you should just be embarking on an OU course. I work at the OU, on its community website Platform ( and spend most of my days talking to or writing about students/alumni and their experiences – each one is so different but similar at the same time; the excitement, the nerves etc. So best of luck with your studies, I look forward to reading all about it :0)

  • Hi Robyn – yes, I noticed your OU connection. Watch out for the ups and downs, especially as I tackle calculus…

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