Caring because numbers

marcus-bylineWelcome to LFG.

If you’ve had a browse of our About Us section you’ll have gathered by now that here at LFG we’re proud to call ourselves scientists.

So if there’s one thing that gets our goat it’s certain dank, infested pits of the internet complaining that ‘geeks ain’t what they used to be’.

Sciencey people, the mouldering cantaloupes of these bleak places like to blather, have, apparently, in the last decade or so, become too cool or too fashionable, too assertive and high-profile to concentrate on being ‘proper boffins’. We are empty, slick – even smug – vessels, not a patch on our pure predecessors and their genuine, modest, authentic studiousness, what with our new found sociability in the world of social media. Even Bono proudly labels himself a geek and a ‘factivist’ now, they jabber, as if just mentioning the be-shaded rock-prancer’s name at the start of a sentence that eventually ends with ‘laboratory’ is detailed argument enough to cast catastrophic doubt on present geekdom’s place in the 300 year long odyssey of empiricism and enlightened inquiry.

Well, nonsish and rubbsense, pollocks and biss. Apart from the logical error that being stylish doesn’t preclude studiousness – David Lynch was never accused of being a lightweight was he? – I now have in my possession a bunch of jpegs which proves beyond doubt how maggot-riddled the tripe of this assertion is. And what wonderful, eccentric, delightful, joyous jpegs they are! Oh how my heart sings and trills every time I look at them—never before did I think screen grabs could be mentioned in the same breath as Gauguin and Man Ray but now, now I know I was egregiously, sedulously wrong for these beautiful captures show pages from a publication, long since defunct, called ‘Shy Times’, in part a sort of twitter of its age (the 1970s) and patently a place as a whole that the marginal, quiet, studious and intellectual of the day could use to meet and feel at home in – proof, in other words, that scientists and geeks have always been fashionable, cool, edgy, sociable, trivial, vernacular, slick (and all those other things we get accused of now) and we’ve always known it too. On pages 52 to 54, for example, Carl Sagan talks us through Vangelis’s 1968 eventments-inspired new album and, in a sort of Hello-magazine-for-geeks sort of way, gives us a little tour of his shed; on pages 48 and 49 Marianne Faithful goes for a bike ride with Paul Ehrlich during which, amongst other things, they discuss Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention; and on pages 27, 28 and 29 we get an exchange, replete with knowing self-promotion, between the famously very shy mother of the Shakespeare of Leeds Alan Bennett and uber-reclusive rock poet Nick Drake:

shytimes-ex-pa

shymag

So, ner. Next time you try it on with the ‘things ain’t what they used to be’ non-argument, you bitter little complainers, think again. Things are exactly, and provably, what they used to be: shy boys and girls, studyists, geeks, nerds, factivists and datavores, equanimous about who we are, commanding, assertive, obsessive, irritating, pedantic, evidence-based, knowing, cocky and unassailably, evidentially right in a media that suits our needs, and – yes – proud, as we have very right to be, of adding incrementally the sum of human knowledge and making the world a little bit better.

UPDATE February 21st 2014

Ok, ok, several readers inform me that the above magazine is, alas, a fake photoshop job imagining what the marginal, nerdy, intellectual subcultures of previous decades would’ve been like if they had been blessed with our modern day communications tools – the express purpose being to show how ‘trivial’ things have now become. In one way this is a bit of a blow since the suggestion that Jacob Bronowski occasionally spent evenings relaxing at the Royal Society bar in the company of Harry Secombe and his wife is one to cherish delicately with tender affection. But in another way it’s not so much of a blow at all: contrary the aims of the fakers, it actually affirms my point, which is that they were the same as us then but with fewer opportunities, hence my decision to keep the post up intact and untrammelled – flowery, blushing, girlish enthusiasm and all. Also, I believe the substance of my argument can largely be sustained by these two small but magnificent words: Magnus Dyke. Magnus Dyke was a sort of Ben Goldacre of his day: a master science communicator, blessed with an exhaustive knowledge of science and how it works, brilliantly able to communicate this to a lay audience, but also the secret sex-symbol of a million geeky teen girls. Dyke, in my opinion, singlehandedly disproves these new silly accusations of glitzyness in one fell swoop.      

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