Author Topic: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?  (Read 483 times)

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Offline JohnM

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Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« on: March 01, 2019, 05:05:05 PM »

Hawking, NG Tyson, Brian Cox, Sean Carroll, Steven Weinburg etc

There are likely a few reasons. One, it's just the case that physics - and astrophysics - is where the cool stuff has happened recently. Perhaps that could change in future but it doesn't look like it with Mars still the space fanboys obsession and bigger hadron colliders being looked at.

But also physics is the one science that can be apolitical.

Much of biology - be it evolution or genetics - has been highly politicised. The same goes for climate science - there seems to be a real dearth of popular scientists here.


Offline 2397

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2019, 05:37:27 PM »
Yeah, I was going to say that it's not as often in conflict with religion or corporate interest groups. Because the first alternative that came to mind was Richard Dawkins. And then climate science.

It's easier to understand on a certain level, but also easier to ignore, not being of significant consequence to us. Until a meteor makes a direct hit on a city, or a solar storm blacks out a continent, it's easy to take it or leave it, without feeling as if you have to actively deny it to justify not listening to what the science says.

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2019, 06:09:38 PM »
Dawkins and Gould are prominent counter-examples.

Offline JohnM

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2019, 05:25:14 AM »
Dawkins and Gould are prominent counter-examples.

True and psychology have quite a few superstars like Kahneman, Pinker and the lobster.

Offline 2397

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2019, 06:38:14 AM »
I thought of Dawkins as an example of someone who has been as controversial as they have been popular, not a counterexample to the premise.

I'm not aware of Gould's public persona and reception outside of his Simpsons appearance.

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2019, 06:40:38 AM »
I thought of Dawkins as an example of someone who has been as controversial as they have been popular, not a counterexample to the premise.

Dawkins has a decades-long history as a science popularizer before Twitter was invented.

Offline fred.slota

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2019, 07:52:48 AM »
Bill Nye.

Offline JohnM

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2019, 08:16:02 AM »
Bill Nye.

I wouldn't call Nye a scientist. He's SciCom like Cara or Liz Bonnin in the UK. This is not meant in any demeaning way it's just as important as much of the science being done.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2019, 11:43:41 AM by JohnM »

Offline John Albert

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2019, 10:41:14 AM »
Modern physics is perhaps the least intuitive of all the sciences. If a professor can successfully explain those concepts to a layperson, they can explain pretty much anything.

Offline lonely moa

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2019, 03:17:45 AM »
I would have thought biologists like Wilson, Gould, Dawkins, Flannery, Ridley top the list, followed closely by psychologists and evolutionary psychologists, like Pinker, Trivers, Hrdy, etc.
"Pull the goalie", Malcolm Gladwell.

Offline Rai

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2019, 04:31:07 AM »
I think you may be suffering from a case of confirmation bias. There are a LOT of non-physicist popular scientists, like David Attenborough, Gerald Durrell, Jane Goodall, Alice Roberts,  Robert T. Bakker, Darren Naish, Ben Goldacre, Desmond Morris, Jacob Bronowski, Konrad Lorenz, Diane Fossey, Rachel Carson, and the list goes on.

I would actually think that biology  may have the largest number of representatives, with all the natural history television and writing that is going on around the world.


Offline Vicarious

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2019, 01:19:29 PM »
I think you may be suffering from a case of confirmation bias. There are a LOT of non-physicist popular scientists, like David Attenborough, Gerald Durrell, Jane Goodall, Alice Roberts,  Robert T. Bakker, Darren Naish, Ben Goldacre, Desmond Morris, Jacob Bronowski, Konrad Lorenz, Diane Fossey, Rachel Carson, and the list goes on.

I would actually think that biology  may have the largest number of representatives, with all the natural history television and writing that is going on around the world.

Except for David Attenborough, none of those are known to the lay public.

Online CarbShark

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Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2019, 01:23:08 PM »
Goodall and Fossey are

Also, in California, Lucy Jones is a bit of a celebrity.
and Donald Trump is President of the United States.

I'm not a doctor, I'm just someone who has done a ton of research into diet and nutrition.

Offline lonely moa

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2019, 01:36:03 PM »
I think you may be suffering from a case of confirmation bias. There are a LOT of non-physicist popular scientists, like David Attenborough, Gerald Durrell, Jane Goodall, Alice Roberts,  Robert T. Bakker, Darren Naish, Ben Goldacre, Desmond Morris, Jacob Bronowski, Konrad Lorenz, Diane Fossey, Rachel Carson, and the list goes on.

I would actually think that biology  may have the largest number of representatives, with all the natural history television and writing that is going on around the world.

Except for David Attenborough, none of those are known to the lay public.

I might be showing my age, but people of my generation will remember that Bronowski'a "Ascent of Man" was as popular a TV doco as "Cosmos" in its time.  Carson is well known as a game changer by any lay person interested in science.
"Pull the goalie", Malcolm Gladwell.

Offline Rai

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Re: Why do popular scientists tend to physicists?
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2019, 01:50:30 PM »
I think you may be suffering from a case of confirmation bias. There are a LOT of non-physicist popular scientists, like David Attenborough, Gerald Durrell, Jane Goodall, Alice Roberts,  Robert T. Bakker, Darren Naish, Ben Goldacre, Desmond Morris, Jacob Bronowski, Konrad Lorenz, Diane Fossey, Rachel Carson, and the list goes on.

I would actually think that biology  may have the largest number of representatives, with all the natural history television and writing that is going on around the world.

Except for David Attenborough, none of those are known to the lay public.

Just because you don't know them it does not mean that they are not known to the lay public. At least not any less than Steven Weinburg or Sean Carroll.