The Method: Joe Palca Talks Science Reporting; A Candidate For State Microbe

Mar 27, 2015

Photorhabdus luminescens bacteria living inside these nematodes glow with an eerie blue light. A class at the University of Tennessee has nominated photorhabdus to be Tennessee's official state microbe.
Credit Scientific American

National Public Radio science correspondent Joe Palca was in Knoxville this week, explaining the universe in just two minutes. He also found a few minutes to come by our studios to speak with WUOT's Chrissy Keuper.

Palca is known to his audience for his career reporting in science, but his academic background is psychology, with an emphasis in sleep physiology. And he says there's a big difference between communicating science among scientists, and communicating science to the public.

"What happens in science is, you get a lot of information - a lot of nuance, a lot of background, a lot of caveats and references," Palca says. "The problem is, that to communicate the gist of what you're talking about, you have to leave all that out."

Then, every state has its official symbols - the state flag, the state song, even state birds, flowers and fishes. Brandon Hollingsworth speaks to two University of Tennessee students about their nomination of photorhabdus luminescens as Tennessee's official state microbe. Photorhabdus was documented in 1862 at the Battle of Shiloh, and so plays a role in Tennessee's long history.