Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rock Star Scientists

Earlier this year, I made a compelling case for how science professors are like rock stars. I was reminded of this today as I walked near campus with my daughter. We passed a person who was singing a Beatles' song to himself, and my daughter asked me:

"When you're in a cafe and you see someone reading that book you helped write, I wonder if you feel the same way that Paul McCartney does when he hears someone singing one of his songs."

I, for one, am convinced that we feel exactly the same, despite a few differences in Paul's and my situations with respect to our artistic creations. (One example: people sing his songs by choice.)

I assured my daughter that Paul and I share this experience. Perhaps I did so because I want her to value scientific creativity as much as other kinds.

Perhaps I want her to know that if her rock band, which practices about twice a year, doesn't work out, there are other appealing options in life.

Perhaps I wanted to make up for the fact that, much to her disappointment and disbelief, I don't have a favorite Beatle. She asks me every few months, but the answer is always the same. Although she continues to hope, I figure that if it hasn't happened yet, I am unlikely to acquire a favorite Beatle at my advanced age.

Mostly, however, I knew that she would know I was joking if I compared myself to the Beatles, and that we would have fun talking about the analogy between musical and scientific artistes. Now if only I could get the rest of my family to believe that I might be as creative as my cousin who majored in Ethnic Dance more than 10 years ago and who has a favorite Beatle.


Alex said...

I want a write a textbook some day...and I won't bow to pressure from the publishing company to make other editions and rip off college students :)

Anonymous said...

Everyone has a favorite Beatle, don't they?

Usually John.

Shweta said...

Putting up a link to your blog from mine :)

Candid Engineer said...

I know my Extremely Famous Advisor must feel like a rock star. I recently saw his latest press release and and the combination of (arrogance) confidence and sex appeal was rather interesting. If you asked him, he would probably tell you he feels just like Paul McCartney.

Shweta said...

Well, this made me think, i might be a rockstar computer geek :) Its feels the same when someone uses the software i've written

Anonymous said...

Gosh you're famous and wonderful. How do I get to be just like you?

Ms.PhD said...

Ha, I thought you were going to say despite the enormous difference between Paul McCartney's income and yours.

If I ever reach the point where anyone is being forced to read something I wrote (for work-), I will be overjoyed.

Of course as I write this I realize you have to moderate comments, so you'll have to read this little thing I just wrote. Sorry.

I don't have a favorite Beatle, either. But I think it's debatable whether Ethnic Dance is a more creative profession than scientific research and teaching.

Doctor Pion said...

Even cooler when you meet someone for the first time, get introduced, and they say something like "Oh, you must be X of the XYZZY paper." Who doesn't want to be a star?

I disagree a bit with the statement in the earlier article that an oft-repeated talk would become stale. Whether it does or not depends on how you approach it. As I commented in a blog about teaching the same class repeatedly, its not just a matter of a few new riffs each time you perform that old song. You have to approach each new audience as if it is the first time you played the song. They deserve it.

Fall is coming? Time to tune up and get ready to rock!

I never quite got the favorite Beatle concept. If you are a fan, it should be about picking your favorite Beatles song! [Time to put on a CD and work on that syllabus.]

Anonymous said...

Does it count if I have a favorite Monkee instead?

Pagan Topologist said...

A-Dawg, I did write a textbook back in the late 1960's. I did not write any more but a second edition to clean up obvious problems with the first one. Even though it was selling well, the publisher simply let it go out of print. I think the only way to win this one is by electronic self-publishing, if you can market effectively. The way publishers (and many other large companies behave in this regard is outrageous.

Chelle said...

I can imagine a professor walking into the class with Queen playing in the background (or in her head): We will, we will...Rock You!


It makes me wish I was back in the classroom. Although working for the textbook company has been less stressful. (Yep, that's what I do.)

Arlenna said...

This reminds me about how an acquaintance of mine in college saw Francis Crick at a urinal in the bathrooms at a gigantic biology conference, and actually had the nerve to ask him for his autograph.
I don't know how gracious Crick was about it, but this guy ended up with a signed bathroom paper towel.

Kids, if you see your favorite scientist rock star in the bathroom, do not do this.

Anonymous said...

More than a little curious as to what Crick signed the autograph -with-.

Shay said...

Thirty some years ago my father co-authored some textbooks for first and second year German students at the high school level.

When the spousal unit and I first met and were beginning the tentative process of getting to know each other, he was unbelievably thrilled to learn that my father wrote the book from which he learned his German. I think he even bragged about it when he was TAD in Germany. It was an odd coincidence.

unknown said...

Lately, I've been having similar musings on my own blog ( about rock star scientists but from a completely different point of view. I really like the blog. Though, I think the attitude of "rock star" can be a detriment to science.