Former MASH star Alan Alda risks his life to tell people about science, and says the alternative is even more dangerous.
On the small screen, Alan Alda risked his life to save others.
In reality, he risks his life to tell people about science.
The former M*A*S*H and The West Wing star is in Australia to talk about his passion and why the public should care.
"I almost gave up my life for science," he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday of being in an eight-foot row boat with scientists catching a six-foot shark.
"I'm not bragging, I'm just saying."
Alda admits he's not the kind of person to vacation on the Amazon - he'd rather go somewhere with a lobby - so interviewing scientists on the top of a volcano or in a boat is terrifying.
But in the name of science and getting it across to the average person, he's put himself in some incredible situations.
On that boat, scientists directed him to slit the shark's belly to attach a radio, but forgot to warn him the shark's skin could cut his hands open.
"I've got lacerations all over my hand and now I'm bleeding and there are more sharks coming," he recalls.
Then there was a visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and to areas off limits to the public because of fears it might explode.
It was physically dangerous to bring science to the public but if you didn't it was more dangerous, Alda said.
"We need it not only to survive, we need it to thrive."
He wants the public to reconnect with science and has dedicated his life to effective communication of the profession.
The television star believes it's vital not to dumb it down, but it's also not necessary to tell people everything all at once.
As long as it was accurate, it may only be necessary to open the door, he said.
"If I finish reading your article on gravitational waves, and my response is "wow, that sounds... really interesting" - then I think you will have done a really good thing."