Scientists, Not People

British kids don’t think scientists are normal human beings:

Around 70% of the 11-15 year olds questioned said they did not picture scientists as “normal young and attractive men and women”.

Among those who said they would not like to be scientists, reasons included: “Because you would constantly be depressed and tired and not have time for family”, and “because they all wear big glasses and white coats and I am female”.

For the record, irritatingly many American adults also don’t seem to think scientists are normal people.

Maybe “lab lit” is (part of) the answer? It apparently sells, if properly displayed:

I wanted to know whether lab lit would sell if readers were made aware of it as a genre. To explore this, I performed an experiment with the cooperation of the Gower Street branch of the bookseller Waterstone’s in London.

The display, initially intended to exist for only a few weeks, was ultimately so successful that it was kept up for five months. And for many of the books displayed, sales increased dramatically, even taking into account the likelihood that displayed books will sell better in general anyway.

Or maybe there are just more nerdy quasi-humans out there than we thought.


  1. fledermaus wrote:

    But did it even take into account the number of kids who WANT to be bespectacled, lab-coat-wearing scientists?
    I can think of many people who aspired to the aesthetic in the ’80’s, Kurt Harland of Information Society, Thomas Dolby, Brent Spiner…
    In some circles it’s cool. Like pirates.

  2. Rex Ferric wrote:

    We need more Alton Brown on TV, dammit!…

  3. yami wrote:

    Hey, I wanted to be a bespectacled, lab-coated scientist! And I’m living the dream. Except for the lab coat. And the lab, but that’ll change soon enough. But there were lots of bright kids at school who didn’t buy into it, who still would’ve made great scientists.
    And Alton Brown is many things, but “attractive” is not one of them. I actually find his style somewhat irritating… better just to buy a copy of CookWise.

  4. des von bladet wrote:

    The Gower Street Waterstone’s is about as atypical as they come: in the heart of Bloomsbury near several chunks of the University of London, it’s London’s best academic bookshop (and a regular point of pilgrimage for me).

  5. yami wrote:

    Hmmm… maybe they should start peer-reviewing the fluff articles.

  6. des von bladet wrote:

    They don’t even peer-review the Proper Articles, really. Nature is very nice, if unlike me you can see the point of it, but it’s a magazine not a scholarly journal.

  7. yami wrote:

    Eh, it’s a scholarly magazine. And how else am I supposed to know what color of science is in this season?

  8. James Aach wrote:

    Look for my essay on in the near future on science and fiction publication. In the meantime, my insider novel of the US nuclear power industry is available to readers at no cost at

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