What should the scientist look like? / SurprizingFacts

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If you do not like people who refute your expectations, or like to judge a book by its cover, you may be tempted to argue about whether a person is competent enough for that , To deal with their business, based only on its appearance. Even if a person has already proved his ability to perform work in his field, you will remind them, personally or publicly, that they do not meet your expectations. And this week one of the readers asked me:

Why do you, Mr. Ethan Sigel, look weird and frivolous, despite the fact that you have a great scientific mind? You do fly in the mouth can fly.

As you can understand from my photo above, or from a photo from the Facebook profile (below), I do not particularly correspond to the stereotype of the appearance of the scientist.


For a very long time, That scientists should look seriously and professionally. Other stereotypes are connected with this: the scientist must be well trimmed, let him be scattered, but not stand out from the crowd, should be Asian or white, and necessarily a man. If you do not believe it, take a look at one of the most famous "photographs of scientists": Solvay Congress of 1927, attended by all the greatest personalities of science: from Einstein to Lorentz, from Schrödinger to Pauli, as well as Ehrenfest, de Broglie, Heisenberg, Bohr, Dirac.

The most attentive will notice Mary Curie, the only exception to the male stereotype. This situation persisted for a long time, and if you look at the most typical images associated with us with scientists – NASA astronauts and PMU employees – they will look about the same in the 1960s and 1970s, at the peak of the space program.

The NASA Control Center celebrates the successful splashdown of Apollo 13 in 1970

Times have changed, styles have changed, the demographic composition of scientists has changed – in terms of religion, race, age, Sex – but some stereotypes die with difficulty. Even worse – despite the large number of large scientists not falling under the usual standards, there is a much larger number of scientists corresponding to these standards. Especially in such fields as physics, mathematics, engineering and computer science, the stereotype of a scientist as a serious, professional man of the white race remains to this day.

The NASA Scientific Laboratory Team Celebrates the successful landing of the rover Curiosity, 2012

I do not want to say that there is something bad in being professional, serious, white or male. Many scientists are just such, and probably most of today's working scientists combine these signs. But none of these signs, external or personal properties, have any effect on your mind's ability or on what you can achieve with it.

George Gamow (also known as George Gamow) was one of the most absurd living people, and at the same time one of the greatest scientists of all time, and he came up with the theory of the Big Bang. Pal Erdos was one of the least professional people – he slept on the couches of the institute, showered LSD and amphetamines for most of his life, and at the same time became the most prolific mathematician of the 20th century. His colleague, Alfred Renyi, once said of him, "the mathematician – a machine of turning coffee into theorems." For many reasons, it's hard to be a nonconformist, because not only ordinary people, but your colleagues treat you frivolously if you do not match the picture of a "good scientist" present in their minds. This I have not even embarked on sexism and racism towards women, blacks and Hispanics who are trying to excel in areas in which it is not customary to wait for their participation. Even such a relatively mundane characteristic, like an unusual hairstyle, is still capable of attracting attention.

Senator Dianne Fainstein and Bobak Ferdauzi, participant of the Cassini-Huygens and Curiosity missions, known as "dude" With the Iroquois "

This is one of the most important lessons – both in life and in science – that you will not be given at school: your intellectual abilities do not depend on whether other people consider you strange , soft touch, bizarre (physical, personal or other points of view), or with those of Do you adaete what some unusual habits or qualities, except directly wit and penchant for science. You do not need to like in a person that he, from your point of view, is strange, not serious, unprofessional, etc. But you must judge them in terms of their activities and the quality of the results of their work, and not in terms of whether you approve of their appearance.

It is very important for you, for your life and happiness, to be yourself, Feel free in expressing yourself and who you really think you are. There is always a stereotype that you, from the point of view of other people, should match (in my case – an intellectual scholar), and there will always be people who are negative about you for nonconformism. But some feel the contempt – and not particularly important, in the end – it is better than not to express themselves. Therefore, dear reader, to you I seem strange and frivolous because it is part of my persona, and this is how it is convenient for me to imagine myself to the world. I agree to bear responsibility for this and am ready for all the judgments that will be made about me by people because I show myself as I am. But on behalf of all the living people to whom somebody ever said that they are abnormal for some reason, who dreamed of going beyond the limits that others chose for them, I hope that if I do not like you, then It will be solely because of the claims to the quality of what I do, and for no other.

And about the fact that a fly can fly into my mouth? Well, what is life without a small risk?!

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