[Featured Image courtesy: http://www.upi.com/blog/2013/09/05/Bill-Nye-has-leg-up-on-Dancing-Its-all-physics/8871378392152/]
I have always been a big fan of Bill Nye, ever since the days of Bill Nye the Science Guy on PBS. Wearing his trademark bow tie and lab coat, his shows were smart, entertaining, and always taught you something cool about science. Science rules. In recent years, Bill Nye has been an important advocate for real science on issues like evolution and climate change. For millions of kids AND adults, Bill Nye is what a scientist looks like.
[Image courtesy Cheezburger.com]
I was delighted, along with everyone else in science, to see that Bill was going to be a contestant on “Dancing With The Stars.” At last! A popular, pubic forum, where Bill could continue to be an advocate for real science and science education. But I have to admit that after seeing his performance, I was disappointed. At the risk of seeming tedious, I wonder if he went the right direction with his choices. Dancing the Cha Cha to a version of “Weird Science,” Bill Nye and his partner played into every science stereotype – beakers and flasks overflowing with mist, his partner as his experiment on a table. Part of me geeked out at his unabashed delight at showcasing his love of science, but part of me wished he’d just danced his socks off. I imagine that some DWTS creative director thought they were having an “AHA!” moment and wouldn’t it be clever to have the scientist do science-y things?!
I’m not the only one who was frustrated. Jennifer Welsh of Business Insider agrees:
“My problem is that this was a major opportunity to teach America that scientists are normal people too. Nye may have just been playing himself — he has always acted dorky and over-the-top. But every bit of his performance was dictated by his science guy character. He didn't need to do a science-themed dance — no other Star did a themed dance.
Keyshawn Johnson, also a contestant on this year's season, didn't do a football-themed dance. He didn't wear a jersey or have goalposts on stage. Nye missed the opportunity to show the world that scientists are people too.”
Which begs the question: What does a scientist look like? Walsh cites a 2009 study by Research America that shows that 65% of Americans can’t name a living scientist, and 18% of those who try get it wrong. There have been other efforts to fix the mad-scientist image. Joe Perry of the band Aerosmith teamed with Geoffrey Beene (the designer) and created a group called Rock Stars of Science to send the message: These are real people (and worthy of admiration)!
[Image courtesy: http://www.geoffreybeene.com/rockstars/?page_id=533]
[Image courtesy: http://www.geoffreybeene.com/rockstars/?page_id=1040]
Mavenites, work with me here. Time to get the word out about what a real scientist looks like. Come out of the laboratory and take off the bow tie and lab coat. A tumblr site is accepting submissions for what a scientists look like – send in your profile!
For what it’s worth, here’s what some scientists I know look like:
The Maven, aka Lady GaGa, taking a break from a science video shoot:
and The Lovely Assistant just generally being awesome:
[Lovely Assistant: Aw, thanks Maven!]
We still love you, Bill!