Can science really be sexy?

Science has for a very long time been the pursuit of the nerdy. It seems almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which there are millions of young kids all desperately hoping that when they grow up they will be famous scientists – but truly this is what the world needs. We have plenty of football players, pop stars, models, fashion bloggers, athletes and aspiring thespians – but where did all the scientists go?

The first and most obvious issue that springs to mind is role models – because lets face it young people are all about the role models. In science, the face of swagger is purported to be Professor Brian Cox. Now please don’t get me wrong – he is a great physicist, has made some great TV programmes and I widely support the IOPs view to give him the Kelvin medal for popularizing Physics…..but this is the best we can come up with – a guy who played keyboard in a band which had a few hits while he was younger and is now a physicist?  I can tell you for a fact I don’t know many young kids who would look at Prof. Cox and say that is what I want to be when I am older. In truth, I find him a little creepy.

BrianCoxREX

So role models is a clear selling point – when I was growing up football had David Beckham and pop stars had the spice girls. Science had…well no body overly inspiring. Why? Well I think in truth it comes down to the nature of a scientist – and particularly the physicist. We are trying to tear the face off the universe – to gain an appreciation of the meaning of life. It is hard to switch from the universe and everything to then worrying over the most current outfit combinations of if manbuns are or are not in fashion (of which I am still unclear). So perhaps due to the very nature of the quest, scientists never will be “cool” by public perception? Perhaps you have to want to do science because it is what you want inside rather than because you have seen someone getting into a nice car who is a scientist.

Another great issue is of course the education system. There is a real issue of inspiration when it comes to the educational upbringing we have here. I completely love physics but honestly I was bored to tears at school. Of course there is a walk before you can run issue – do we really want 13 year olds trying to attack quantum mechanics? Well of course not no. But it also wouldn’t harm them to know these things exist. It is so hard to inspire kids into science when science is perceived as timing how long it takes a ball to roll down a slope or hanging weights off a spring. It just is not inspiring at all. My other main gripe is that they try to teach mathematics and physics as distinct subjects, which you just cannot do. The evidence comes from the fact that the mechanics is taught in mathematics and not in Physics…. so our physicists don’t do mechanics without maths. Of course all the serious ones take maths too but it is weird.

Then there is commercial viability. There is a lot of money to be made if you are a scientist that can whiten teeth like no other or you can help a mining company extract minerals at a faster rate but if you just want to work on the problems of the universe, which have no real distinct product or end goal – except to know as much as you can you can’t really sell it. You need funding, and of course with funding this is limited and competitive. Some of the world’s smartest people compete over salaries which honestly most people in the private sector wouldn’t  even work for. Without the money, there won’t be lots of glamour. Which is okay – we aren’t here for that but it helps to answer the question.

In summary, science is underrepresented at school, has few credible role models and is so poorly paid that it is unlikely to ever be the stuff of dreams. I think the education system needs to change – how do we know how many Einstens were deterred by the schooling system? However the rest of it will stay – why? Well scientists will always be scientists and why would we want the most intelligent people on the planet obsession over the latest fashion fad anyway. The money side of things… well science just won’t ever be able to guarantee the kind of results needed to attract large packets of cash, because by its very nature there are very few known truths. You are looking for something and you don’t even know what it is yet.

Will science ever be sexy? Probably not.

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31 responses to “Can science really be sexy?

  1. Thought provoking post! Science may not look sexy but it is beautiful, unpredictable, and mysterious and there is always something new to learn! It is a real challenge, therefore, as you mentioned, pursuing science has to come from the love of it and not coz it may stand as a lucrative option (as most often it wont!). Precisely, the reason for all the great scientists we have today. It is their passion that drives them.
    P.S. – Football had David Beckham and pop stars had the spice girls. Science had… well Dexter’s Laboratory.. Duh!! Inspired me enough as a child to preserve fungus and observe them under a magnifying lens 😛

    Liked by 3 people

    • What is Dexters laboratory!? I dint get too much television as a child! You get Einstein but then he does not seem to appeal to too many young people. If I am half like Einstein when I get old I will be a very happy man

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dexter’s Laboratory was a popular cartoon that played on Cartoon Network. Most kids were crazy about it including me. It was a funny cartoon where this dorky kid, worshiper of Einstein, had a secret laboratory and he invented fun stuff!

        Liked by 2 people

      • You now have a Netflix mission . let’s call a science experiment hahahahaa

        OK…. OK… MISSION: get box of microwave popcorn, beverages, P.J’s, fluffy pillow and a stuff animal (just in case), paper towels, sanitizer, and make a do not disturb sign.

        Mission: how long can you withstand watching nothing but cartoons and find your inner child.

        Mission Instructions:
        1- place the “DO NOT DISTURB” signs where they need to be.

        2- prepare at least 12oz. Of popcorn and place in large bowl

        3- Find a comfortable (private if possible) spot where you think you will have cartoon night/day

        4- place all snacks, finger food, drinks ect… Nice and neatly around the sitting position.

        5- start Hulu, YouTube, or netfilx…

        Cartoon Recommendations:

        Dexter’s Laboratory, Courage the Cowerdly Dog, Looney Toons, Fairy Odd Parents, Static Shock, Heman, Thunder Cat (I forgot … It might be Catz -not cats), SpongeBob, The adventures Of Gumball, Adventure Time, Total Drama Island (this one will make you laugh so hard you’ll cry), Brandy and Mr. Whiskers, Proud Family, Anamaniacs, and last (another laugh and cry cartoon) Family Guy.

        6- ENJOY….

        PS. Let me know if you go through this pore opening, sweaty mission event.. It is a difficult task with child at heart side effects! Hope you complete this expirement with success… You must maintain a real trooper!!!

        *tries to keep a straight face…

        Liked by 2 people

      • I have to say I have never hear of or seen any of these cartoons… infact I am not so sure I have ever even seen a cartoon the whole way through before. That is quite a comprehensive list of instructions… can the cartoons not be replaced with documentaries about space and time!? No seriously, what is it about cartoons that has the appeal then?

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Can cartoons not be replaced with documentaries about. Space and time?”

        A: first of, let me just say I admire your love for science… To answer your question….. NO! LOL

        Ok joking! Hahahahaha I am just curious about your reaction after seeing at least 2hrs of cartoons … Lol

        “What is it about Cartoons?”

        A: they are absolutely pointless, however funny, and if you really look at them in a scientific way. Cartoons actually have hidden messages that work sort of in a hypnosis kind of way. The messages that cartoons have some are volgar, others violent, and most are sexual. Its weird.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well that is a shame…okay I tell you what as an experiment I will watch the two hours of cartoons but I warn you it might be some time I have an assignment, an IOP lecture and German class this week!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh… No worries two weeks, 4months… Hell, I probably will be here 10 years from now… I’ll wait 😀
        Besides this is only for fun and just to give you a feel, of what goes through children’s head when they watch cartoons. I am soooooo sleepy, I forgot what all this is about hahahaha

        Oh wait…. How’s school?

        Liked by 1 person

    • I am dee-dee always curious what that button do!!! BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA LOVE DEXTER!!! still do… I’m the 39 year old woman that loves cartoons! Its just so funny how some cartoons are so blunt, and tell it like it is, get away with it, and to top it all off…. They make you either laugh or be like wait a minute…. Yeah that’s true and question weather or not to laugh about the true. One thing I learn from cartoons…. To find the humor in the painful truth lol

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes, definitely the school system needs some changes. For short in Czech Republic it is just horrible, one of the most important jobs, teaching, is to be one of the least paid which is then showed on the quality of teachers.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Awesome post! My job is to promote science and STEM through the internet. And let me tell you, it is the hardest thing I’ve ever undertaken in my life. I’ll never give up though. Someone somewhere will see our work and fall into the wonderful trap that we call science.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think girl scientists are sexy. Hell, intelligent women are sexy to me, be it physics, botany, or advertising. I think people are sexy, and physics definitely doesn’t hinder that. But I’m a little weird

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think that the big gap is empathy. Professor Cox is deservedly renowned, because of his ability to instill wonder. In doing so, people desire to have his level of understanding because they believe it will allow them to better understand the universe. The big task to popularize science is to make it relatable and applicable to people on a day to day basis. A person who does this extremely well is Tim Ferris, who is not a scientist per say, but applies the scientific method to his life for ruthless efficiency.

    Famous soccer players (footballers) don’t need to bridge the empathy gap, because many people grow up playing soccer. Even if you are not terrific, you probably scored a goal at least once, and therefor, understand the rush of joy associated with performing at sports. If children can be made derive some pleasure from the structure of science, it may lead them to scientific thinking. There’s a great excerpt by Richard Feynman about how the impact of talking with his father impacted his desire to understand things more deeply:

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  6. I read it thoroughly and enjoyed it Joseph.
    One question that I had about role models is: are we conditioning our kids to pursue fame instead of knowledge through advertisement of outer appearance, and not the brain? As much as we say: brain counts more than looks, too very few times we give others a second chance to get to know them, passed their looks.
    Anyways.. I am just rambling here. 🙂 Great post! 🙂
    Dajena

    Liked by 1 person

    • An interesting question – and I think the answer is that we probably do, because it is just so difficult not to. It has mass popular appeal to be the next Beyonce, but who can tell me who won the Noble prize in Physics last year (not saying you personally just in general!). It’s a tough one but the way I look at it is this – we (scientists) don’t do it for fame, and there is something comforting about the commitment of someone who has been tempted by all these celebrities and comes out the other end still wanting to be a scientist. It does feel that this could however be a very wasteful process!

      Liked by 1 person

      • When we allow our passion to develop, I think we are able to become who we want to become. I cannot tell you who won the Nobel Prize in Physics last year, but I can tell you who won in Literature 🙂 – To each its own 🙂 🙂
        At the same time, I am happy that there are those who have the capacity and aptitude to pursue science and continue to ask those questions we all think and try to find the answers.
        All the best to you Joseph!
        Dajena 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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