Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

GREENINGS: The science of board games (March 2018)

March 22nd, 2018 · No Comments

The danger of equating pop culture with the periodic table

This neighbourhood is known for great people and I’m lucky enough to call many of them neighbours. I had the pleasure of joining some friends for dinner recently. After dinner, the gracious host pulled out a game and continued their after-dinner tradition of playing the latest trivia game they received for Christmas.

Once eradicated diseases are now on the rise thanks to a vocal number of people who can’t read a scientific study.

As someone who lives under a rock with children more interested in Caillou than Justin Bieber, I can say definitely that I scored a near 0 in the arts and entertainment category. Though I can appreciate Adele’s pipes, I had no idea she had the bestselling single in 2015.

The science and technology category though, I more or less cleaned up. I was quick to answer that Fe is the symbol for iron and tungsten was used in the production of light bulbs. The night was thoroughly enjoyable.

I decided that I love trivia games. The word trivia itself refers to bits of information of little importance, and stems from the Latin trivium where a road would fork and often became a public gathering place where people would discuss trivial matters.

When I got home, it occurred to me that at a time when science and math literacy is through the floor, this board game essentially sends the message that knowing the Billboard 100 is of equal importance to knowing the periodic table.

The lack of science literacy has given rise to climate change deniers, so called anti-vaxxers, and homeopaths that can cause a lot of harm. The environment and our own health and well-being suffer as a result of this and here I am, partaking in this game that treats science as a trifling matter.

Despite scientific consensus, popular media still treats climate change like a controversy. It is not. Yet even for those who are willing to accept the conclusion of 97 per cent of the scientific community, people often don’t have enough scientific knowledge to combat the cherry-picked data of Fox news. Political stagnation might be in the interest of the elite, it is certainly not in the interest of human survival.

Not understanding basic functions of chemicals and scary sounding words has led to the rise of a massive anti-vaccination movement. Once eradicated diseases are now on the rise thanks to a vocal number of people who can’t read a scientific study. I firmly believe the movement would have been dead in the water if scientific literacy were higher among the general population.

The inherent contradiction in homeopathy is both amusing and baffling. Proponents of homeopathy insist that water somehow can have memory and remember the molecular structure of a drop of onion juice. Practitioners continuously dilute solutions insisting that the bottle of water, essentially just water, contains the molecular structure of whatever substance it is they are using to cure your ailments but magically forget one of the most common water contaminants — feces.

It would be funny if it weren’t so damaging. Parents are forgoing medical treatment in favour of these cures and causing real harm to their children. In some cases, children have died because of failure to treat illnesses.

While any exposure to science and facts is great, it really didn’t sit well with me that this game had put knowing scientific formulae on an equal footing as knowing lyrics to Justin Bieber’s latest song. One might be cute, while the other can lead to drug or material inventions that can save lives.

I certainly don’t expect game manufacturers to do anything about this dichotomy, so as parents, it’s our job to ensure that our children don’t think the Billboard 100 and periodic table are of equal relevance to the world.

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths.



GREENINGS: Driving fuelled by unseen subsidies (Jan. 2018)

GREENINGS: No solutions for nobody’s problem (Dec. 2017)

GREENINGS: Celebrate science not milestones (Nov. 2017)

GREENINGS: Down to the data (Oct. 2017)

GREENINGS: Reducing paper waste (Fall 2017)

GREENINGS: Taking tolls to the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway (July 2017)

GREENINGS: Lessons from Madrid (June 2017)

GREENINGS: Thoughts on hitting the 400 benchmark (May 2017)

GREENINGS: Solving the food waste problem (April 2017)

GREENINGS: Kellie Leitch was right (March 2017)


Tags: Annex · Life · Opinion