Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Rockstar Scientist

A Science Lecture - Can you imagine one speaker speaking to thousands of  attendees?

I would like to imagine that we live in a world where:

1. Science documentaries are shown regularly in Movie theatres.
2. Science TV shows have more ratings than reality shows and other shows on national television. 
3. Schools and Universities concentrate in teaching Science and Math than any other school subject. 
4. Where the majority of people appreciate and wonder with awe about the Cosmos. 
5. Where Scientists are regarded as heroes and receives more popularity, wealth and recognition just like Movie persons and athletes. 

The last one is quite interesting. Do you remember any time in history that lectures are sold out and has lots of people attending? To be honest, I don't know one, maybe you know. 

Scientists, most of the time depends on money from the government or from research grants from private individuals or private companies (aside from savings in their salaries from their respective Universities and Research facilities) in providing that boost in their research in terms of equipment, hiring staffs, and building infrastructure. As far as I can tell, most of these intelligent minds are not rich, some are struggling, and some does not even care about the money. Nikola Tesla, one of the geniuses of the 20th century, even died a poor man.

Yuri Milner (right) with Mark Zuckerberg. Yuri is also a stock holder of  Facebook.

But that changed in 2012, when Yuri Milner, a former physicist and Internet enterpreneur, created the Milner Prize, formally known as the Fundamental Physics Prize in which winners gets a lucrative $3 million, more than the Nobel and Templeton Prizes combined. This would be a great boost for physicists in terms of using the money for further scientific research or for projects in popularizing physics, specially science. 

Based on the Michael Brooks article "Can millionaire physicists draw masses to science?" for the website

"As he told New Scientist recently, Milner plans to use his wealth to paint scientists as heroes, turning them into household names and stimulating an increase in research funding and in the number of young people wanting to become scientists. "The more attention you attract to science, the better off everybody will be," he said."

"The three-million-dollar question is: will it work? Probably not. Rewarding scientists financially is easy. Turning them into household names is not so simple. As became clear during the ceremony (latest Fundamental Physics Prize ceremony), theoretical physicists make terrible celebrities."

The article also cited that physicists are "very human". They interact with students, pupils, co-workers, spectators - ordinary people. And for me, that seems to be the most noble of all traits - humility, which fame and fortune couldn't buy. 

So I guess, my perceived world where Science is pouplar and the people pursuing it are also popular might be impossible here or maybe in some other Universe, but we'll never know what's next for our dear intellectuals. 


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