Punk Science

Everyone can probably relate to having a hero in their field of interest, whether it’s an athlete who plays competitive sports or a musician or vocalist who spins lyrics and melody into song. For most people, we have these heroes and figures that we look up to in various arenas, the more fringe of us having interest in individuals involved in places like politics or theatre or even the world of math, (heaven knows how, but those of you that do have them, you probably really do). To be fair, what I’m about to propose will probably sound as tedious and may even elicit that hard-wired eyeroll that young people have when they hear anything that constitutes something “boring.” It’s at this point that I’ll hold up my hands and say, “Wait! I promise this is worth your time!” all the while wondering how I’m going to manage to capture your interest.

Before I get in too deep and spoil the punchline to this article, let me step back for a minute and give you some background about myself. Then I can continue with this totally-exciting-and-definitely-worth-your-time article. For those of you who may not have stumbled into me at various points across campus, my name is Opal, and I’m a second-year psychology major with a bunch of peripheral hobbies and academic nerdiness making up my current identity’s iteration. This will probably not come as a surprise, then, when I casually mention that my nerd turn-on is the concept of research and learning, which means that one of my favorite pastimes consists of looking up obscure entries in academic journals for a variety of neat and cutting-edge topics in the world of science today.

You might be starting to get an idea about where this is going, but I’m going to throw a plot twist at you now in an effort to keep this narrative on its toes. I adore science and technology. My heroes include futurist Nick Bostrom, an eminent researcher and philosopher in the field of artificial intelligence, and NVU-J’s own Dr. Leslie Johnson, a social psychologist investigating critical issues centered around stigma. These people, and many others, are making changes in the world today and are working to shed light on the mysteries and problems that we face as humans. It’s people like this that are my source of inspiration and wonder, my equivalent to the adept sportsman and musical virtuoso. Often, though, these scholars and researchers are only known in their circles and fields. They’re not exactly the household names that say, Lady Gaga, Tom Brady or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are.

So here we come to the crux of what this column will be about, back to the present where I want to introduce a concept that might be at first a little strange and even a little silly, but what I think will prove to be important in the world we live in. The idea is, aptly, the name of this column which probably drew out that eye roll that I mentioned earlier. Punk Science. My goal is to bring the same amount of recognition and enthusiasm that most have for their pop culture icons and bring it to the scientific community. Those of us that are already there know that even in our academic pursuits, we can all still be rock stars. In that spirit, I will endeavor to seek out new and fascinating science and present said material in a manner that is more accessible to the general public. With luck, our journey will be engaging, thought provoking, and even, dare I say, fun?

Some topics that you can look forward to in the near future come from innovative technologies and disciplines like Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Psychology and Neuroscience, among many other subjects and branches that constitute the scientific world. In addition to the general overview and mechanics behind each of these areas, I hope to also present the ethical dilemmas and potential futures that these developments may bring about, all with a dash of attitude and humor that should prove, if nothing else, entertaining. Finally, wherever possible I will attempt to provide context and additional direction to take you further down the rabbit hole if you so choose, all the while bringing a fresh perspective to an often-homogeneous field. Will this be alternative and edgy? You bet! Exciting? For sure! An adventure where we can learn together? Absolutely. Welcome to Punk Science, where we’re making science cool again.