Today we give thanks to those citizens of the world who we consider to be hip in science.
Science wasn’t always hip. Science history is riddled with boring experiments ranging from watching planets and stars meander around the universe to bird watching while drifting around on the ocean with a beagle. However, our generation grew up watching Huey Lewis on the News talking about how it was hip to be square — the irony of being both interesting and bland at the same time. How could it be done? Scientists, in their white lab coats and monotone labs… what could be more square? How could they be hip?
Gregor Mendel, Copernicus and Sir Isaac Newton don’t sound like the coolest kids in the neighborhood studying peace, spinning around, and falling, but Carl Sagan managed to put the “hip” in “science” in the mid 20th century (despite not being a physiologist). Others have helped drive the hipness of science. Don Herbert, aka, Mr. Wizard, normalized science for kids in the 50s and 60s with “Watch Mr. Wizard” and again in the 80s (in color!) on “Mr. Wizard’s World” for those of us with Nickelodeon. “Beakman’s World” tried to make science wacky, awesome and fun in the 90s. Around the same time, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” came on the scene with a single stated objective: change the world. The Science Guy won a slew of Emmys and his show is still used as a popular educational tool over a decade later. On the heels of Bill Nye’s Emmys, Neil deGrasse Tyson, potentially the most publicly recognizable living scientist, was named People Magazine’s 2000 sexiest astrophysicist. You don’t make People Magazine’s sexist listings without a certain degree of hip.
Other hip citizens known primarily for their work outside of science have histories steeped in science. Natalie Hershlag (aka, Natalie Portman) was part of a research group that published a study on cognitive development; Mayim Bialik holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience and stars as a neurobiologist in a prime-time TV show.
Whether someone dedicates their life to science or has dedicated a part of their life to science, they should be recognized for their contributions. These citizens hip in science are our past and our future.
Being hip in science doesn’t stop with TV personalities. They Might be Giants had a hot song in 1993 with their cover of “Why Does the Sun Shine?“. Monty Harper’s 2010 album Songs from the Science Frontier enshrined modern scientists and scientific advancements in catchy children’s songs. Jonathan Coulton regularly puts science and science fiction to music and taught us how to spell DNA. Even biotech companies have gotten in the action, with Eppendorf starting off by putting things in motion. Bio-Rad got a decent reaction with their Scientists for Better PCR, which led them to synthesize GTCA. As scientists become hip, they’ve had their own viral music videos of a good graduate project (Lady Gaga spoof) and this pathological cover song (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis spoof). One great citizen hip in science, Cadamole, has even put together some songs for all of your favorite holidays, i.e. St Patrick’s Day and Mother’s Day.
Science became mainstream and, as citizens hip in science, we have a duty to keep a love of science in the public forum. Science is becoming hip, and these pioneers were the hipsters (they were hip in science before it was cool).
On this special day, remember that scientists and citizen scientists can be hip too. Take a moment to let your favorite science fan, fanatic, or aficionado know that they are hip, and perhaps you too can be one of the citizens hip in science!