I know that the public perception of scientists is the pocket protector wearing, taped glasses sporting, unkempt sociopath. But as an insider, I can break it down even further. There is an inversely proportional relationship between the fundamental nature of one’s research and social graces. For instance doctors are the people we all aspire to be: smart, well-balanced, principled, involved in society and beautiful to boot (you know what I’m talking about). But as we get more involved in research we have biologists. These guys and gals are nerdy to the core, but can be seen at various social gatherings intermingling and having what could generally be called “a good time.” I mean, they play with fruit flies and zebrafish all day. If they’re not dying for human interaction, I don’t know who is.

Next we have chemists. Think white lab coats, round glassware, multi-colored liquids boiling wretched fumes, and questionable personal hygeine. As chemists we are in an age of decision. We are, just as the middle class, being split into first and second class citizens. The biochemists and molecular biologists get promoted, while the physical chemists get repressed. The organic and inorganic chemists are sitting on a fine line, and need to polish themselves up if they want any funding. But overall we have a hard time fitting in anywhere and have an accordingly large chip on our collective shoulder.

Moving on we see the physicist. Wow. I should go to more optics seminars. I’ve never felt better about myself. I used to think I was marginal in my social abilities, but after attending today’s talk I feel great. I could be GQ’s man of the year compared to these people. They can build a laser capable of trapping and cooling thousands of atoms to within a tiny fraction of a degree above absolute zero, but faced with soap and a comb, they’d folder under the pressure. Smart, yes. Smelly, yes. Capable of normal human interaction, absolutely not.

And finally we have the mathematician. I challenge anyone to show me the difference between a professional mathematician and the guy that eats my garbage every tuesday night.

Well folks that concludes our tour of the annals of scientific endeavors. Please exit to your left, and don’t feed the mathematician.

Advertisements