This past Saturday was the March for Science. Oh what a glorious and proud event it was. Nerds on parade! Science cosplay! Clever sines! :-)
These are my people; the people who think it’s cool to be smart, and love the pursuit of truth. It’s depressing as hell that we need to stand up and show up to defend BASIC FACTS. But if we’re gonna do it — we do it in style.
I identify as a proud science nerd. I fell deeply in love with the scientific method during grad school — and had my mind blown watching the original Cosmos by Carl Sagan with my neuroscience buddies.
For a while, I dreamed of being a science writer —of days spent exploring the frontiers of emerging truth and sharing those wonders with the world. But I became a software designer instead — plus a blogger and author sharing design techniques from the world of gaming.
When I first met my husband, we bonded over a a mutual love of the mathmagical wonders of the natural world. Since our kids were small, we’ve watched history and science documentaries on Family Movie Night — everything from dinosaurs to astrophysics. A few summers back, we discovered the Cosmos reboot by Neil deGrasse Tyson. My heart swelled as I saw my kids experiencing the mind-expanding wonders I’d discovered as a budding scientist — and I got to appreciate the work of truly gifted science communicator.
That Fall, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Neil deGrasse Tyson backstage at a conference we were both speaking at. In the green room, preparing to go onstage, I was immersed in my slides — while Neil paced quietly back and forth, lost in thought. Then he sat down at my table and started talking.
“I like to tell a few jokes upfront, to calibrate who I’m speaking to” he said. “Right now I’m deciding which jokes to tell to this particular audience. If they laugh, I’ll know that they have a certain level of sophistication about science. And if they don’t…” He paused, and shifted his gaze towards the stage. “Well… that’s a different talk.”
Wow. I sat there stunned, once again blown away by a great science communicator. Think about what it takes to tailor your talk in real-time to connect with audiences all around the world. That’s no small feat!
Thanks Neil, for the shot of inspiration that day — for making Cosmos and giving us a summer filled with awesome Family Movie Nights — and for defending science when we need it the most.