science

Beyond the Shirt

After yesterday’s brouhaha, I wanted to take a closer look at the real news, the amazing things that rocketed the shirt, and the man wearing it, into the spotlight.

I’m a student of science, but I’m more a plants and bugs and squishy dirt piles kinda girl. I’ll admit that barren rocks in space don’t light my fire as much. Which isn’t to say that I don’t find pictures like this one absolutely amazing, wow-worthy, and now I want to paint that…

15114103644_d7d2e1cb1c_zHere’s the thing. Because I’m not really tapped into what’s going on out there, up past the atmosphere, I hadn’t heard of Rosetta and Philae before I watched the landing as sketched by Randall Munroe at XKCD. And I certainly didn’t expect that shirt to be the thing that drew all eyes to the mission. However, now that we’re all looking, let’s talk about this, shall we?

Rosetta, the mothership that carried Philae to her new home on the comet, has been up and away for ten years now. How many of you have been waiting a decade to see a life’s work project carried out? During Rosetta’s flight, the team responsible has not been idle. They have been learning. Learning about asteroids, how to fly a ship with no-one onboard, and control signal lags long enough to go have lunch while you wait. During the flight, the ship had close encounters with two asteroids, unprecedented opportunity to study these lumps of… well, now we know. Hydrated minerals.

Lutetia’s Grooves

But all the world heard about yesterday was a shirt. A wacky shirt, yes. One that, as many came here to point out, didn’t fit into the usual business dress of an office. However, they aren’t looking at a few details. First, this scientist is known for his wacky and wild wear, which he dons deliberately with the idea that children now are not interested in guys in dark suits with clunky glasses. An interview with a British newspaper done earlier this year yields this:  “When researchers ask children to draw a scientist they usually receive vaguely Einstein-looking figures, people in lab coats or men with facial hair. From now on, they could start seeing extensive tattoos on those characters as well. Inspiring this new look is Dr Matt Taylor, the man in charge of the science being done by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission to land on a comet for the first time and hopefully reveal secrets about how life began on Earth. Much of Taylor’s body is covered in tattoos. Worried about image, the space agency asked him to cover his arms at a large media event this year. Now, the tattoos have become a talking point. He even has one dedicated to the comet mission on his right thigh.”

So this man is known to be eccentric. What happened? What happened is that a female ‘reporter’ decided that she was going to find something to be offended at. I’m not talking about the bubbly and professional Lizzie Gibney, who can be seen talking with Matt Taylor in the above video. No, someone who wasn’t even there, saw the shirt, and suddenly nothing else mattered. Rose Eveleth was looking for a reason to be offended, and she found it.

Forgotten were the actual women involved in the mission, like Marilia Samara, Claudia Alexander, Svetlana Gerasimenko, and Kathrin Altwegg. If you want to encourage girls to go into science, why not feature one of them, or the others whose names are to be found on the lists of team members?

Imagine, a woman born just after the end of WWII, watching the Philae land! “And her reaction, after waiting so many years to see the first close-up images of the comet? “Comets are the most enigmatic and enchanting objects. In the course of my work I observed a lot of them and obtained many interesting pictures. And every shot was unique, because the view of a comet is changing every moment. But those were the pictures of other comets. When I saw the pictures of our comet made by Rosetta, I had a feeling that I was seeing something so special, so near and dear to me,”  was her reply.”

This is what we need to focus on. The sense of wonder, the amazing things that the men and women achieved. You find what you are looking for, and sadly what some were looking for was the negative, the tiny bits of bad to blow out of proportion. It’s not about not wearing the shirt. It’s about forcing an agenda onto the world, seeking out that handle that you can use to shake another person like a ragdoll, and when they ask ‘what did I do wrong?’ you berate them, shame them, and keep looking for another handle to use against them. What was important here is in danger of being lost in that episode of bullying and power-seeking. Let’s not let that win.

Really want to keep a kid’s interest? How about this…

Philae

0 thoughts on “Beyond the Shirt

  1. I couldn’t agree more.

    Of course, the SJW crowd has successfully demonized accomplishment to the point that they’re adverse to mention it. It’s far easier to blame someone for something than to hold someone up as a role model.

  2. My own double-check on these things is always my wife, who has an actual PhD in Astronomy (unlike Rose Eveleth) and who has dealt with actual sexism in the sciences. Her reaction to the outrage over Matt Taylor’s shirt? “Are these people insane? And where can we buy one?”

    1. Also astronomer here, also 20+ years in space mission operations. My first reaction was, “Cool shirt.” My second reaction was, “They said WHAT?! You’re kidding, right? Really? What morons.”

  3. Passerby of your blog via Instapundit – some good writing going on round these parts – particularly the two posts regarding the terribly cool science shirt – a sci-fi achievement deserves sci-fi shirt – and I say this as the father of a daughter who’s a total econ/stats geek

  4. There is something dangerous and theatening about real science. So the talking heads have to detract from it, shame it, and put it in its’ place just like all of our other freedoms.

  5. Problem is, as more and more girls as well as boys realize the S and M (appropriately enough) in STEM are literal Stalinist enterprises, except you lose your career instead of your life or your health after a stint in the GULAG, they’re going to avoid them for less rigged game, the T and E where there are at least some market forces in play for most of the field.

    I became sentient when the moon program was going strong and Johnny Quest was initially prime time entertainment (first watched it in the first set of reruns the year after). Knew by the end of 1st grade that my calling was to be a scientist, and getting into MIT and doing well there tended to confirm it. Ended up in a sordid life as a computer programmer for $$$ reasons, but if I was a high school student today I wouldn’t even bother applying to CalTech or MIT, let alone pursuing a science career, no more than I would have emigrated to the USSR back when that was possible.

  6. Someone elsewhere suggested writing the sponsors of The Atlantic and promising boycotts unless they corrected the Sniveling Jerk “Writer” that did this. Not a bad idea.

    1. I see people saying that they don’t think boycotts are something we should do. I’m not sure why. What better way is there to make your point, than telling someone you won’t support them any more, unless they quit promoting things that you find objectionable?

      Of course, enough people simply notifying a company that they will boycott will often be plenty to get the job done, so that is a good first step, and can often resolve the problem without the follow-through.

      1. He was Jerry Pournelle’s example for an edge-case in what counts as harassment. I haven’t read anything by him that I can remember; guess I need to see what the mad-money envelope can cover on Amazon.

        1. There should be an omnibus of the Lord D’Arcy stories and novel available used and cheap, buy it. Excellent work, one of the earliest examples of “scientific magic use” and an excellent alternate universe series. Also know that a number of his shorts are available on Project Gutenberg

  7. Now we’re down to “shorts” instead of “shirts” . . . oops . . . what I was going to say was, as it often is, somewhat off the subject.

    First thing I noticed, in the topmost picture, was that starting at the top, then moving the eyes toward the right, there appears to be an eye . . . nose . . . mouth . . . chin; and to the left, a bit of stringy hair. Or is it just my weird perception?

  8. So, maybe I’m just saying things because I have a functioning sense of aesthetics but why would anyone wear that shirt in public?

    1. Because, fortunately, we aren’t all slaves to fashion *grin*

      Really, I don’t care what someone is wearing. I object to them jumping on him with both feet over this. If it were a Star Wars shirt, or Dr. Who, would we have heard anything at all?

      1. It’s not about being a slave to fashion, it’s about being a slave to wearing things that don’t make my eyes vomit.

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