Something is in the water… correct me if I’m wrong, but is science cool again, or would it be more correct for me to say “more” cool?
From what I can tell, even the most unlikely of people (in my circles) seem to have a new found interested in science, namely physics and astronomy. Admission to physics and astronomy are reportedly up in the modern world, and even Youtube and popular media is swooning over science-topics at the moment.
If so, these commercials certainly were not the cause:
So what is it?
After been invited on a second date earlier this year with a then lovely-astrophysicist-friend, I got home and spent the night doing what any modern lady would do in a similar situation… I “googled” the heck out of astrophysics. I’m sure I would have skewed Google statistics for popular searchers after my efforts alone.
The plan was to find anything to help me get through the “how was your day” part of the evening. Hopefully I could actually ask questions and contribute more than some nods and clueless comments like “hmm sounds interesting” to the one-sided monologue that was our conversation.
Date number two came, after having spent all the free time I could muster watching every BBC series on astronomy I could find, I was ready. “How was your day” I said with an excited grin, thinking I was prepared to at least ask some intelligent questions. “Good. I’m writing a paper on Ly-alpha…redshift surveys … galactic outflows… infrared… words words words. I had a few realisations in that moment. 1. Scientists use a lot of buzzwords. 2. Physics seems much easier when Brian Cox is flying all over the world (for no apparent reason) telling interesting stories on the documentaries. 3. I feel like Penny from the show “the Big bang Theory”. 4. It’s very hard to know if someone is being serious when they use terms like “supermassive black hole” and “extragalactic astrophysics” in a sentence.
That is why/how I started learning more about science this year, I hate to admit that it was because of a guy, but at least it wasn’t because I was trying to impress – I simply was trying not to embarrass myself and to actually understand him. And it wasn’t completely in vain. Although from my perspective I still embarrassed myself on the date, I really enjoyed learning some of the basics of physics and astrophysics. And he didn’t seem to mind my astrophysics-illiteracy, he was even happy to explain (and we had a lot of fun together, even going on to date number 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 …. ).
For anyone who isn’t pushed into learning about science for fear of being lost in scientific conversation (as was my case), what’s the new appeal for them?
Popular media would lead you to believe that the show “the Big Bang Theory” brought science into people’s minds. While others have coined the term “Cox Effect” as an explanation of physics’ new popularity, caused by Brian Cox through the plethora of documentaries he’s presented. But I wonder what other factors could be at play. Could fashion have a minor part to play, with “hipster” and “geek chic” (otherwise science-like) styles being in vogue? It would make sense that the (Large) Hadron Collider, and this year’s Higgs Boson discovery, have made more than a few people think about physics as a profession or at least made it something exciting and news worthy. Could it be the plethora of science-fiction movies (Prometheus certainly didn’t sell it for me), or the media’s recent coverage of astronomy and physics topics? The impressiveness of recent computer generated galaxies? Could the Mars Rover be encouraging some interest? Maybe even the very evangelical Neil deGrasse Tyson has stirred attention from the public (I seriously love this guy)?
Either way, it seems to be there. People are getting interested. I’m not the only, for the most part, “grown-up”, seeking to educate myself on science related topics. There’s a science movement, and the best thing is, the barriers to learning virtually everything, have been coming down in recent years as content is moving online.
If science is the new “cool”, then this guy Neil deGrasse Tyson makes me understand why, above all.
He manages to mix poetry with astrophysics and illicit the excitement of any listener through the passion and articulate nature with which he speaks.