As you may have heard, ESA's ROSETTA spacecraft successfully landed yesterday on the solid nucleus of comet 67/P, Churyumov-Gerasimenko - a 2.5 mile long conglomerate of rock and ice. I refrain from giving detail of that enormous achievement for humankind, because I rather want to comment on this rather funny twist of the whole story. But still let's first enjoy at least one nice picture of the surface of that distant solar system body...
So, about the "incident". Perhaps it was planned ? For sure Matt Taylor, the lead project scientist of the Rosetta mission, must have spent some time deciding what to wear before the press conference, where he would have the attention of millions of people around the world. But while lesser human beings would be mostly concerned with tie/no tie issues, Taylor appears to have decided for a rather radical solution to the dress code problem. See for yourself below.
Now, for sure this is an attention catcher. In an era when we strive for gender neutrality, and when Science tries to elevate itself as a vehicle of innovations and improvements of human society, wearing a shirt with hot chicks in a press release looks rather silly, but the guy might make more headlines than with the hard science alone this way. So is it all about maximizing the outreach impact ?
I do not wish to self-elect myself to a censorship role - I hate censorship - but as much as I am of liberal views on such matters I believe the guy overdid it, whatever it was that he wanted to do. And the shirt really sucks, by the way. I would have appreciated much more if he had dyed his hair half blue and half green, or if he had performed a Maori dance in front of the camera.
By the way, in this other picture it becomes evident that the full body of the researcher is covered in tattoos. Perhaps he did not spend too much time in the choice of shirt after all ? And good grief, just look at the rest of his outfit... If the message is "I have no time to breathe due to this research project, and as I wake up I grab the first thing I set my opposable thumbs on" I think it is spot on, but it still calls for questions on who buys his clothes.
(from The Mary Sue)
Now all I ask is to see the next woman spokesperson of some experiment or lab wearing a shirt with pictures of succinctly-dressed men. It would be a way to look for gender balance in the bigger system. If a woman in such a position just gives us a nod, here at Science20 we'll open a web subscription to choose the shirt and fund the purchase.