There was once a time not long ago when physics, or in fact anything science or maths related, was looked at as being unfashionable and uncool. Adolescents and young adults were rooting for people with ‘street cred’, musicians or artists. You were either in the cool gang or in the nerd group. This culture is typified in many high school movies, TV shows and cartoons such as The Simpsons. While some groups are still and perhaps will forever be considered as nerds, e.g. comic book fanatics, a couple of groups are starting to break off from that crowd, namely physicists and computer geeks. Of course, they will never quite replace music or arts, which earned its coolness because of its easy accessibility and being easily understood by the public. Below are some of the reasons why physics/science and computing are beginning to crawl up the coolness ladder.
1. Social Media
The internet was once a thing reserved for computer geeks such as Benjamin, Doug and Gary from The Simpsons, and the only time a teenager would use it was to play games or do a mandatory homework. Then along came a geek by the name, Mark Zuckerberg. While his name is geeky in itself, he started the now famous Facebook along with Eduardo Saverin and others. Facebook has come a long way since its creation, but it has become a tool for many things, from advertising to press release to friendship and more. In this modern-day, an adolescent’s ‘coolness’ is often measured by the number of ‘friends’ (s)he has on Facebook. The same holds true for sites like Twitter.
2. The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory is a TV sitcom, which first aired in 2007, centered around 5 characters: Sheldon Cooper, a theoretical physicist; Leonard Hofstadter, an experimental physicist and Sheldon’s roommate; Penny, a waitress and aspiring actress who lives across the hall from Sheldon and Leonard; Howard Wolowitz, an aerospace engineer and colleague and friend of Sheldon and Leonard; and Rajesh Koothrappali, an astrophysist and also a friend of aforementioned characters who has selective mutism towards women. In this show, the social ineptness of the scientists are contrasted to Penny’s social skills and common sense, for comic effect. While the show centres on the lack of social skills and common sense of the characters, it also brings to light many cool and not-so-cool ins and outs of the scientific world, along with the human side of the characters, to which the audience can build an understanding and relationship with. The fact that The Big Bang Theory ranked as CBS’s most-watched show, demonstrates that the public actually enjoy the show despite being very science-orientated.
3. Cool genius characters
Perhaps the coolest of all movie/TV character is Iron Man a.k.a Tony Stark, who exemplifies what a cool scientist actually is. He uses his intellect to not only to make his fortune, but also acting as a philanthropist. Moving away from imaginative characters, the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have become of interest in the public domain, suggesting that people are aspiring to be like them. The number of small computer startups have rocketed in the past few years, with more and more people getting into the computing industry.
Another key item that has raised the profile of science in recent years is the Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs’ Boson a.k.a God particle. It received world-wide media and social media coverage in its launch and continued to do so with each major discovery. Social media coverage e.g. in Twitter and Facebook has become a benchmark, and should a subject reach worldwide coverage it would definitely be considered ‘cool’.
While the sight of people reading the New Scientist may never be a common sight, science’s image in the past decade has certainly become a whole lot cooler.