Thanks to the popularity of shows like The Big Bang Theory, science is finally gaining the cool points it deserves. Not only are celebs that play scientists being lauded by the mainstream, real-life astronomers, biologists and chemists are also becoming pop culture icons. This is quite a shift from the typical athlete, entertainer or reality star that typically dominates the lime light, which is, frankly, a breath of fresh air. So who are these science nerds influencing how we view the world scientifically and making subjects like astrophysics attractive? Here are a few scientists who are killing it in both the science world and with the lay community.
Astrophysicist, cosmologist and best-selling author, Neil deGrasse Tyson has appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report and has been featured in Time Magazine, the New Yorker and Playboy. As the director of the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson spearheaded the planetarium's reconstruction in 2000. Tyson is not just recognized for his invaluable contributions to the planetarium or astronomy, however, as much of his popularity stems from his wit and alluring personality. His ability to explain the complexities of astrophysics and astronomy "” coupled with his incredible sense of humor "” packs auditoriums and elicit crowds around the globe to hear him speak. The dude was even turned into a meme, which is the ultimate form of pop culture praise.
Neil deGrasse Tyson's own meme, knowyourmeme.com
If you grew up in the '90s, there's no doubt you watched the science program featuring a tall, dorky scientist donning a silly bow tie and white lab coat. Known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, Bill Nye has gained a cult following since his show, Bill Nye the Science Guy, went off the air in 1998. He has hosted a variety of shows and made numerous guest appearances, including a rather cheeky performance on the VH1 reality show America's Most Smartest Model and as a contestant on the 17th season of Dancing with the Stars.
Besides being an entertainer, Nye has contributed to the enhancement of scientific exploration and education by helping to develop a small sundial that was included in the Mars Exploration Rover missions and promoting space science research and planet exploration when he worked as the Vice President of The Planetary Society.
Nye is not just a science educator and jovial entertainer, though. The Science Guy has spoken out against the use of pseudoscience and science denial, criticized the teaching of creationism in public schools, and has been a fierce defender of climate science and vaccines. Nye has even helped set a new record on Kickstarter by heading up a campaign to fund the documentary The Bill Nye Film, which raised more than $680,000, making it the most funded documentary in Kickstarter's history.
Is there any greater cultural compliment than being meme'd?knowyourmeme.com
One of the more controversial figures in science, Richard Dawkins has led the evolutionary science movement, penning a range of books on genetics, God, and idea propagation in the Information Age. While the genetic adaptation of the human species isn't a very seductive topic, Dawkins has managed to present the subject to the public in an engaging, relatable manner through his writing and various talks.
In his 1976 novel The Selfish Gene, Dawkins introduced us to what could be conceived as one of his most popular contributions to modern-day society "” the meme. While we think of the meme as a construct of the Internet Age and the spawn of the meme generator, Dawkins devised the concept of the meme as a way to describe the spread of ideas and cultural anomalies.
Although he has created a name for himself based on his significant contributions to ethology and evolutionary biology, Dawkins is best known for his strong atheist beliefs and his unflinching, and often unapologetic, views of Christianity. Some even argue that his staunch take on religion may even cause his undoing, as the scientist and writer has made what some may consider offensive remarks about certain religious groups and the abortion of fetuses with Down Syndrome.
Still, Dawkins remains a boss in both the science realm and the mainstream as he takes to Twitter and other social media platforms to call out evolution naysayers and those who oppose his anti-religious beliefs. And since scientists are typically portrayed and made out to be passive geeks, Dawkins appeals to the masses because he holds his own, tearing down this stereotype one Tweet at a time.