Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Physicist and the "Nerd" Image

Frankly, I am extremely tired of this image of a physicist. Y'know, white lab coat, pocket protector, thick glasses, mismatch shoes and socks, etc...etc. And let me tell you this. Where I work, the only person that I know of that actually has a set of pens and stuff in the shirt pocket is an engineer! :)

So I'm sure that this was meant to be 'funny', even in Singapore:

Sec 4 student Ian Yap, 16, dressed as a physicist and won the prize for 'Most Nerdy' costume.

He said proudly: 'In order to win a prize for being nerdy, you can't just dress as a nerd! You need to truly understand the ways of the nerd.'

I guess in the scheme of things, this really is a non-issue. But truly, it is also a reflection of the fact that many people simply do not encounter physicists, much less how they work and what they do, that often or at all. So the image of a "nerd" is certainly ingrained in people's mind, especially when it is being re-enforced by popular media, movies, and TV shows.

So are there physicists that actually fit into such nerdy stereotypes? Of course there are, and there are nerdy people in political science, sociology, psychology, music, etc.. etc.. as well! But one would be surprise to see just how "un-nerdy" physicists as a group are. I mean, George Bush looks downright nerdy when you put him next to Lisa Randall! Well, OK, so that wasn't such a fair comparison, but you get the point! :)



Nick said...

I don't think I find it insulting but it's non a non-issue either. The difficulty is that you want to attract people to the field and you won't do a whole lot of that if it's expected that you have no interesting social interactions on a day-to-day basis.

There's definitely more to say on this, I might write a little post later on...

Nick said...

As I mentioned, some thoughts about nerdliness.