Meet Bobak Ferdowsi, the coolest dude at NASA: http://huff.to/RPyGOb
So there are scores if not hundreds of scientists and engineers on NASA’s Curiosity team, and this guy is the “coolest” because… he sported a mohawk?
Nah. The whole damned team is the coolest because they built this car-sized rover with a chunk of plutonium inside; launched it into space; got it into orbit around Mars; then set off an incredible sequence that would probably give regular folks heart attacks in landing the Curiosity on Mars — which can range in distance from 34 to 250 million miles away from Earth — apparently without a hitch.
That’s what makes them cool. Not a mohawk, sorry.
Little bit idealistic, ION (can I call you that?), but I understand where you’re coming from (I think.) Let me posit something — not a critique or saying “YOU’RE WRONG”, but maybe there’s an angle not thought of here.
The thing about Ferdowsi and some of his other co-workers (it really was an interesting motley crew there at JPL as far as generations, looks, etc. go) that is being latched onto is that the JPL crew kind of defies our media-driven stereotype of what space folks, scientists, geeks, and nerds in general are supposed to look like. There was another gent with a bit of a pompadour going on (one I described as just short of rockabilly, about half a Morrissey); an older long-hair with glasses and a hippie-ish beard. And some of them were certainly no older than mid-to-late 30s.
I think part of the reason people are latching on to Ferdowsi and his co-workers (him more than others, obviously, because a mohawk and eccentricity in terms of hair stands out) is because, for the better part of an hour, we got a view of science that defied our expectations or stereotypes about what science die-hards look and act like. To see younger people reaching the peak of space robotics and breaking boundaries opens worlds to the teenage world, where it’s kind of presumed that this would be a staid, super-conformist environment and it would be a bunch of old dudes running the whole thing — that’s inspiring.
I think that’s why people are kind of coalescing around this one guy — he’s the largest, most visual representation of science not being staid and starched, but his co-workers certainly pitched into that impression on their own as well.