Thursday, March 3, 2011

Irony, Courtesy of the Wayback Machine

The New York Times today published a story about actors who are also scientists. In the story they touch upon the difference in publicity between the two professions: even the most tangential actor tends to be better known than the most successful scientist. They go on to link to an article in "The Onion"  from 2001 about scientists complaining about the paparazzi. It's meant to be satirical, and it is seriously funny (at least to a scientist). However, like the best of its genre, it contains a delicious and cutting nugget of truth which comes at the end:

"If it weren't for all this publicity, it's possible that far fewer people would support our work," Heeger said. "We scientists could actually be in the position of needing to scrape pennies together to complete our vitally important research." 
Diehard science fan Jill Krause agreed. 
"These scientists are the most important people in America," Krause said. "Our very future depends on them. They are enabling us to live longer and better, discovering the history of the planet we live on, and unraveling the mysteries of the universe. There's no way we'd ever let them work in obscurity. It's laughable." 
-The Onion, August 22, 2001
As many of you know, one of the goals of this blog is to make some of the scientific research that I am involved in accessible. I was delighted to see the response from all over the world to my last article, which is already the second most popular thing that I have written, and I'd like to thank all of you who came by for a look. Still, I don't think I'll be fending off photographers any time soon. Despite that, it is interesting to look at publicity in science from the flip-side.

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