2017-08-04 / Commentary

Revenge of the Real Nerds

It’s not a criticism; It’s an observation
Mike Cox

I saw Neil DeGrasse Tyson on television recently. He was smart, funny, and self-deprecating; at least as self-deprecating as one of the planet’s most brilliant people can be. How smart must one be just to want to become an astrophysicist?

Most of us were considering simple professions like rock star, pro athlete, film legend; jobs that only require luck, hard work, and dedication. To aspire to the astrophysics field, one has to think so far outside the realm of normal smart people, it is ridiculous to even consider.

I first encountered those who processed the world through different brain exercises while in junior high. I had classes with Tom, Paul, and Charles. They were easy to identify because everyone who took algebraic formulas and scientific what-if questions seriously also sported white pocket protectors and hung slide rules by their side. I’m guessing in case they had to whip out a quick verification.

None of these guys played sports or showed interest in the quickly changing creature so abundant in those days, the teenage girl. In retrospect, I’m sure each one was focused on some of the females, just in a completely different way than the rest of us.

Tom and Paul were pure-bred geeks; I followed them around after class a few times because they had a wicked sense of humor. Way better than any of the guys I played football with during PE. But it was a short-lived bromance. We were from completely different cultures, for sure, and probably planets. Charles was more like the normal guys, and we tolerated him somewhat. At least until high school.

I reconsider these guys every time I encounter Neil DeGrasse Tyson on television. I first saw him on the Science Channel talking expertly about planets with a lot of information and a large helping of personality. Made for TV.

He has gotten political recently, perhaps frustrated by our nation’s lack of interest in healing the planet before oil and coal companies wring every last nickel from their industry while poisoning the land.

The politicians who support the oil companies are using a familiar and effective defense of climate change; the same MO cigarette companies used for decades to keep people smoking; bait, switch, and question the data.

DeGrasse Tyson has gone on the offensive against climate change deniers by doing politically tinged television appearances and taking to Twitter to raise awareness. Many have criticized him for getting involved in politics. I’ve even noticed something amazing in the search engines. People are using supposed incorrect tweets to take shots at his intelligence.

I saw where some guy in Arizona, who listed his accomplishment as having attended an art school, questioned DeGrasse Tyson and ridiculed him for supposedly being incorrect. I’m not sure how you feel but anyone who can list astrophysicist among his job descriptions is off limits to any ridicule I might initiate. Way above my pay grade.

I love to lambaste my buddies for poor argument positions and off-base predictions, but I’m staying away from the really smart guys. First of all, we need them, now more than ever.

And besides, they can probably ridicule me without my even knowing it.

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