The Joy of Science
As seen by those who do it for a living – And for fun too.  
Ah, science.  The noble but dull domain of men and women who live a life of dry calculations and repetitive grueling observations…. or not.

If your image of science is that of boring complicated mathematics and geeks in lab coats who shun the social life and the peons who don’t have the word "doctor" in front of their name, then you are sadly mistaken.  Sure, there’s a lot of math and numbers, but they’re often a lot more interesting than your 8th grade math teacher may have lead you to believe.   And although scientists do try to be objective, few would ever claim to not have emotions or even a sense of humor.

The fact is, research scientists and those in the fields of pure and applied science have some of the highest career satisfaction and general happiness of any profession*.    This has actually been known for some time and it’s not hard to think of a few reasons why this might be true.  They work in jobs which they can see making a difference, not just for themselves but for everyone.  They’re mentally stimulated and in the company of other intelligent individuals learning things that nobody else has before.

And don’t think that it’s just numbers that your average scientist cares about either.   When a new image is down linked from the Hubble Space Telescope, the researchers who view it are not likely to lose site of it’s beauty as they run the spectral analysis through some formulas.  And yes, scientists do, every once in a while, step back from their electron microscope, particle accelerator or supercomputer and say something like "Wow.  How cool is this thing?"  

And many in the field would like nothing more than to tell YOU how awesome, nifty, cool, beautiful and fantastic the world is.   That’s because, just like everyone else, when they see something really cool or learn a mind-blowing new fact, the first urge a scientist has is to share it with everyone.   You don’t need to be a scientist to appreciate some of the practical and philosophical implications of the research that has been done and is currently going on in national laboratories and the halls of academia.
*source

Shocking Revelation:

Approaching many scientists and researchers will result in them talking to you.  Even if you are not a scientist.  Furthermore, many have reported being told interesting or informational things by these scientists. Reports indicate that they may express a sense of enthusiasm.   Some of the more commonly reported statements include "You really ought to learn more about this.  It’s interesting" or even  "If you are interested in this, I can point you to some great places to find out more."

In additional to being helpful and occasionally excited, there are even reports of humor and wit.   Given this information, some have concluded that: 
Scientists are in fact people too.

 

Given this, it appears that there are some things which can help one determine if someone in their community may actually be a scientist.  These include a predisposition toward clever or intellectual humor, rather than simple fart jokes, and a general tendency toward stimulating, creative, intellectual and well-informed conversation.

 



A few well known examples:

Dr. Carl Sagan
Astronomer, Astrobiology, Author and advocate for science.

Although credited with numerous discoveries in the fields of planetary science, Sagan will be remembered by many for his love for knowledge and the joy of discovery.

The world lost a great one.  But we were still lucky to have him.


Stephen Hawking spends his days in a wheelchair, but having changed the way humans view their place in the universe, he’s got plenty to smile about.

 


Jane Goodall takes a short break from her primate research for a little kissy-poo


I don’t know what the joke was,
but apparently it was really really good.

 



When Warner Von Braun said men could
be sent to the moon, he was laughed at.
Look who’s laughing now!


Apollo 14’s mission was to make scientific observations and gather samples of lunar material for analysis.
   But it’s not like astronaut Allen Sheppard is the first person to find time for a round or two of golf on an otherwise business related trip!

 

Werner Heisenberg here is shown in a state of happiness, however the reasons why and his location are uncertain.

(There’s a joke in there)
  Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi was known for his friendly and relaxed attitude.  Reportedly not above helping a grad student move a heavy table – that is when he wasn’t busy inventing the nuclear reactor.

"Smile for the camera!"  Einstein had heard that one too many times and decided he’d have a little fun.   Ok, many of us would think we’d look really stupid sticking our tongue out at a press photographer.   But then again, when you’ve penned the Theory of Relativity, you generally don’t have to worry too much about coming off as stupid.


Dr. Richard Feynman

Credited with founding the theory quantum electrodynamics, super fluidity.  Participated in the Manhattan Project and winner of the Nobel prize for physics.

Also a well known prankster with a sharp sense of humor and bit of irreverence.


And played the bongos, too.



 
Kary Banks Mullis is, by all accounts, a unique kind of guy.  Some may have considered him a goofball or not taken him all that seriously.


But most of those people shut up after he won the Nobel Prize for inventing the Polymerase Chain Reaction, which is vital to modern Genetic science.

 

Nuclear physist Edward Teller is sometimes referred to as the "Father of the H-Bomb" he also contributed to the design of nuclear reactors and, on occasion,  blew soap bubbles.

Profs. Hans Bethe and Boyce McDaniel successfully demonstrated that the Cornell University cyclotron facility is not only a vital tool to experimental physics, but also is a pretty good place for a bike ride.
 


Q.)  Did Jacques-Yves Cousteau dive the world’s oceans to advance the science of oceanography or for pleasure and leisure?
A)  Yes.

 

Benjamin Franklyn Philosopher, author, politician, inventor and scientist.

Though best known for his experiments with lightnight, Franklyn made numerous discoveries in nature and in the fields of electricity and meteorology.  He also created dozens of practical inventions.
 

Additionally he was known for his sharp and sometimes off-color satirical wit. His best known collection of humor: 
"Fart Proudly"

And no.. that’s not an example of the language changing.  It pretty much meant the same thing it means now.  


Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson – Astrophysics, Director of the Hayden Planetarium.  Dr. Tyson’s love for science is equaled only by his passion for bring it to the masses – And his slightly off-beat, but always entertaining sense of humor.

 


So what is a Tipple Top?  It’s a fun toy that spins and then flips over onto it’s other side and spins some more. 

And who’s that playing with the Tipple Top?That’s  Niels Bohr.  You know, the guy who established the structure of the atom and who helped found quantum theory.  
Well, who doesn’t like fun toys?

 

"All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child."
~Marie Curie


(Sorry Madam Curie, but when you’re a woman, a scientist, a public figure and it’s the 1800’s, we just can’t let you come out and actually smile in a photograph.  It would be too scandalous! Maybe you could do a tongue-in cheek sarcastic look?… ok that’ll have to do)

Dr. Michio Kaku may be one of founders of string theory, but that doesn’t mean he won’t cracking a joke or two on his syndicated radio show.


"If you love it enough, anything will talk with you." – George Washington Carver

Is he smiling because he helped found food science?  Because he discovered the importance of plant-based proteins?  or the nitrogen content of soil?  Because of his contributions to industry, medicine and agriculture?

Or is it because people in power paid attention to him despite the color of his skin?  (no small feet at one time)

Maybe it’s "All of the above"


Stephen Hawking, widely considered one of the greatest minds in theoretical physics of our time is normally confined to a wheelchair but here he floats freely in during a zero-g flight.


What great mystery of science was he trying to unlock?  None.  He just felt like having some fun.  Can you blame him? that looks crazy cool!

Gregor Mendal is considered the father of genetics.  His experiments with pea plants and later mice established the basic principals of heredity.  What motivated him to conduct these experiments?  According to Mendal it was "for the fun of the thing."

(This was in the 1800s, they didn’t have video games)

 


When Comet Shoemaker-Levy-9 was predicted to impact Jupiter, scientists held a press conference to downplay the speculation that there would be spectacular images of the impact, hoping to avoid possible disappointment.

But then one of their colleagues interrupted to break the news to them:   The first pictures were really spectacular and did show huge impacts.  
(They didn’t seem to mind the interruption)

 

Hey, who’s that joker clowning around with DrBuzz0?
Oh that’s just Dr. Richard Wiseman Ph.D.,
Author,
Professor, and Former  President of The
British Association for the Advancement of Science

 

 


As the first woman to command a US Space Mission – Col. Eileen Collins Blasted into orbit to advance scientific understanding and space exploration.

(The fact that flying around in Zero-G is fun was just a fringe benefit)


Dr Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic institute has some wonderful toys…. I mean.. scientific instruments and equipment.

 

Glenn Seaborg:  1940’s, 1960’s, 1990’s
Pioneering nuclear chemist, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and far more importantly, a rather jolly fellow it would seem.

Whatcha smiling so much about, Glenn?  Is it all the elements you discovered?  The Nobel Prize you won?  Your national recognition?  Or the element that was named after you?