I love science.
So do a lot of people. Some of them aren’t old white men like me. In fact, a lot of them — and more now than ever before — are young, or African or Asian or native American or aboriginal Australian. And more and more of them are women. Together, we make up my team.
That’s one of the reasons I enjoy super-hero stories like we’ve seen so much of in movies lately. It’s surprising how often super-hero teams include a scientist, and super-heroes themselves are scientists. You like Iron Man? Scientist. You admire the incredible Hulk? Scientist. You dig Batman? Scientist. You love spider-man? Even before he was spidey, you’d find him in the physics department.
We work together. We help each other and we help others. We don’t just fight injustice. We cure diseases, feed the hungry, comfort the sick, help preserve the beauty that nature blesses the world with. Science makes us able to do these things. It gives us immense power.
With great power, comes great responsibility.
Science can be used for good or for evil. We choose good over evil, and that is what makes super-heroes.
We need all the help we can get. That’s why I’m so glad that popular culture now calls to all people, all colors, all genders and ages, to join team science. THIS IS MY TEAM. I am not part of team “white guys” or even team “guys”, I’m not team nerd, I’m part of team science. Join us!
And one of my favorites, scientist par excellence, is Shuri: the scientist-sister of T’Challa, the super-hero called Black Panther. The actress who portrays her in the movie (Letitia Wright) not only gives an inspiring (and entertaining!) performance, she also understands the power she possesses to inspire today’s youth to become tomorrow’s scientists, to wield this awesome power with great responsibility. This inspiration isn’t about black or white, young or old, male or female. It’s about humans — all of us. As Letitia Wright said herself:
I’m proud to be a young black girl doing this, but also as much as this is for young black women to be inspired, [it’s for] all women of all ethnicities, of all races to be inspired. And young boys too, young men too from all walks of life to be inspired by this film.
I’m on her team. She’s on my team. And yes, Letitia, I not only enjoyed the movie, I was inspired. This old white guy was inspired. Thank you.
If you want to be a real super-hero, I have some advice.
First, HIT THE BOOKS. Learn your way around the lab. DO THE MATH. Learn how nature works, then learn some more. Shuri didn’t invent all those technological miracles with just strength and courage. She needed knowledge, lots of it. It’s not the easy stuff, it’s the hard-work stuff. To be a super-hero scientist, learn the science, discover new science, and be prepared that this is incredibly difficult and complicated — but with hard work and you best brain power, YOU CAN DO IT. When the going gets tough (and believe me, it will), reach deep into your soul for your inner Iron Man, your inner Hulk. Find your inner Shuri — and you will find that those who try to serve themselves with what they think is their God-like strength, turn out to be puny Gods.
Second, with great power comes great responsibility. Science can make us powerful, but it doesn’t make us good. We have to choose, and that too can be very difficult. Study a real-life super-hero, who wasn’t a scientist but was a great soul. Fred Rogers. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Won’t you be my neighbor?