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Editor's Note: Science nerds are the 'cool kids'

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 9:40 a.m. CDT

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny...’”
– Isaac Asimov

Science is cool.

That hasn’t always been the case. Not so long ago, people who were interested in science were labeled nerds or geeks, and were the punchlines of jokes about pocket protectors and robotic dates.

Somewhere along the line – was it the advent of the Internet? – the rest of the world started to get it: scientists were having fun. People who understand science understand how things work, which means they can make things work in strange ways, which, admit it, is cool.

Maybe it was “Mythbusters,” the Discovery Channel phenomenon starring special effects professionals – read, science geeks – that helped bring science to the cool level. Adam and Jamie, the head mythbusters, just look like they’re having so much fun.

And, they blow stuff up.

And, they disprove popular urban myths (hence the title), so their viewers can appear oh so smart when they correct their friends (“Oh, no, that’s not actually possible. ‘Mythbusters’ tested it.”).

Whatever the reason, I’m glad to see science getting its just desserts. Just look at STEMFest. Thousands of people filled the Convocation Center in DeKalb on Saturday for the chance to do some hands-on science experiments.

My family watched robots shoot basketballs and my son felt his hair stand on end as he absorbed a static charge. We played with aerodynamics, robotics and physics. I had to pry the kid away from a station where he and his cousin were building electrical circuits; he only moved on with a promise we would visit the laser lab.

Lasers? Robots? Come on. That’s cool.

Thank goodness science’s reputation seems to have traded its pocket protector for a pair of sunglasses. The math is still there. Many of the scientific principles that are drawing people in haven’t changed; they’re just flashier now. They let kids say, “I love science” proudly.

And that is a great thing, because we need those scientists. We need those kids. We need them to grow up to make the next medical breakthrough, to develop the next technology we wonder how we did without. We need them to dig up more about our past so we can better prepare for our future, to look into the cosmos and wonder, “What if?” And then we need them to look for the answer.

***** Hey, shutterbugs! Pumpkin Fest starts Wednesday. We’ll have a photo gallery in next week’s paper of our staff photos; send us your photos, and we’ll also do a reader gallery online – and maybe in print. Send your photos from any part of Pumpkin Fest to readit@midweeknews.com. Photos must be received by 5 p.m. Sunday to be considered.

CORRECTION In the story “Winning theme came at the last minute” in the Pumpkin Festival insert in the Oct. 17 edition, the wrong name was given for Hannah Schramm’s father. His name is Tom Schramm. The MidWeek regrets the error.

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