Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bobak's a meme! Or why scientists are hot

Everyone's talking about Bobak Ferdowsi, and I completely understand the fascination. There's a stereotype of scientists, which you probably know all too well already.

And then this guy busts out on the scene with a sexy job title -- MSL Flight Director -- and a mohawk. A mohawk. Take that, stereotype! Scientists are people, too.

But I think it goes a little deeper than the mohawk. When we're reminded of these glory moments at NASA, when we see these hard-working people sweating, nervous, and then clapping and cheering, it's as good as any moment on ESPN.

So when Washington Post's style blogger Maura Judkis writes

"Even for a scientist, he marvels at the images from space the way that anyone else would"
I was surprised. Ah, journalism. "Even for a scientist" suggests that perhaps she never talked at length with a scientist. Every great scientist I talk with, including my brilliant spouse, gets thrilled talking about science. They marvel all the time. They have this sense of wonder and of awe about things I wouldn't have thought much about.

Take your everyday cramped flight on a commercial airplane. We settle in our cheap seats over the wing; I fold up a jacket and tuck it in next to my elbow to be a makeshift pillow. But Derek looks out the window and talks about how incredible it is that this big thing gets off the ground at all. (Keep in mind that he's a physicist.) The flow of air over wings that keeps planes in the air is a source of apparently never-ending interest and amazement for my spouse.

Scientists are not boring people-- they're highly curious, highly motivated to find things out. They're going to be your biggest cheerleaders when you find something out yourself.

So go on with your unique self, Bobak, and keep Curiosity burning up the roads on Mars. We're marveling at the journey.