Dianna Cowern's work is great. Such delight and enthusiasm - it speaks highly of MIT:-) Her work, imho, is more important than that of people like Neil deGrasse Tyson as it is so much more accessible and manages to communicate the wonder on a personal level. I've met her and you're seeing an authentic science lover. She's also a terrific role model for girls. Her YouTube channel has grown to the point where she now has the support to do this for a living.
Formal K12 science education generally focuses on memorizing 'facts' and is too often distant and dry. There is no better way to kill an interest in physics and astronomy than a first semester course in physics that focuses on statics and math technique. The other sciences don't seem to fare any better. It isn't any wonder that many people who go on to science talk about learning outside of school when they were kids.
Over the years there have been attempts to support teenage amateur science. Unfortunately some of it misses the mark. The big ticket items when I was young were telescopes, microscopes and chemistry sets. Inexpensive optical instruments are usually bad and manage to find their way into the basement or the back of a closet. The chemistry sets weren't much better with manuals that replicated the non-excitement of a high school chemistry lab with boring cookbook experiments. The only attraction for some kids was the the fact that it could be a bit dangerous, but over time safety concerns rendered the kits about as interesting as a cake mix.
Such a shame as chemistry can be beautiful to the point of revelation. People have talked about a clueful chemistry set for teenagers and adults for decades, but that would take a serious commitment of time and money.
You'd be hard pressed to source the bits and pieces for less - I'd recommend going all the way if you're remotely interested. A responsible teen will probably manage to keep all of their fingers and eyebrows, so there isn't much worry. An adult with any imagination might discover a part of the world they didn't know about. For some this may be more exciting than a trip to an exotic location. But I'm talking about potential - the information so far is promising, but the important part will be the suggested experiments and explanations. Perhaps an online community will form around the project to add some depth.
It makes me wonder about what it would take to build a kit to explore physics at home.1 Much of physics involves seeing the unseen and smartphones have the computation power and a display that can dramatically lower the barrier. It just isn't physics. Instruments that extend or add to your senses are fundamental to the study of nature. The ability to do time lapse photographic studies, good enough digital microscopes, ultrasonic microphones, spectrographs, ir image sensors, and more. I was even able to find the normal modes of vibration of my living room during a hurricane using the three axis accelerometer in my iPhone. Much of this is pure gee whiz play early one, but some will want to understand at a slightly deeper level. The same instruments still work. Even serious mathematical investigation is being made more accessible with student versions of tools like Mathematica.
Perhaps there are even social uses. I didn't date until well into grad school. Dianna has a nice video showing something I used on my first date. (ok - I was pretty clueless).2
This is great stuff.
1 I could get serious about this. As a kid I was fascinated with vacuum tubes, light and sound and spent a lot of time playing. Prisms, mirrors, a camera, filters, a borrowed tape recorder and so on were important tools. All of this along with amateur radio and learning how components work singly and together. You end up building a physical intuition that comes in handy at later stages when you get into more mathematical theory. You manage to gain a sense that you are asking the questions rather than just following someone else's cookbook.
2 An interview of Physics Girl Listen and imagine what science education could be like if at least ten percent of the instruction time focused on wonder. We need a group of treasures like her. Sort of RadioLab for lean forward science teens.
° 4 oz pound butter
° 1 cup thinly sliced leeks, whites only
° 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onions
° 2 cloves garlic, minced
° 4 cups corn kernels, cobs reserved, plus another 1/2 cup kernels (it took 4 huge cobs)
° 4 cups vegetable stock
° 1/2 cup cream
° Salt and freshly ground black pepper
° 1 lime
° 4 tablespoons olive oil
° Melt butter over medium heat. Sauté leeks, onions and garlic until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.
° Add 4 cups corn kernels, reserved cobs and just enough stock to cover corn. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer until stock absorbs flavors of other ingredients, about 35 minutes. Stir in cream and simmer until soup thickens, 10-15 minutes more. Remove cobs and discard.
° Purée soup until smooth. Season soup with salt, pepper and lime juice to taste. Return soup to pan and keep warm over low heat.
° Prepare garnishes: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté remaining corn kernels until warmed.
° Season with salt.
° Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle each serving with some of remaining olive oil and garnish with sautéed corn kernels.