18 October 2010

Scientist’s oath

Of all the many, many forensic crime shows on television right now, Bones is my favourite.

I recognize more of myself, and the people I work with, and the jobbing scientists I meet at conferences, in the characters in Bones than in any other police procedural. Sure, the show’s characters are caricatures of scientists, but like all good caricatures, they work because they accentuate what is genuinely there.

I get Temperance Brennan and her literal-mindedness and her bluntness. I get Hodgins and his slightly goofy excitement over running the experiment that gives you the answer.

The Bones writers have a better grasp on the mentality of scientists than most other shows. On most other shows, the scientists seem more like a mouthpiece to show off the writer’s clever research. Sometimes they’re good characters – even great and engaging ones – but they don’t generate that same feeling of recognition that I get all the time watching Bones.

Case in point: The most recent episode, “The Body and The Bounty” (Season 6, Episode 4), has a B story where Brennan is asked to appear on a kid’s science show with Bunsen Jude the Science Dude (a clear nod to Bill Nye the Science Guy). In the end, we see the show, and Brennan leads an audience of kids in a “scientist’s oath”:

We see big stars
Tiny atoms, too
Because that’s what scientists do
We get the facts
And say what’s true
Because that’s what scientists do
We use our minds
And praise what’s new
Because that is what scientists do

And damn it if that didn’t get to me just a little bit. They got it. They managed to encapsulate a lot of the things that matter to me as a scientist.

You can watch the episode online. It’s worth watching all the way from the beginning to get the payoff at the end.


Peregrin said...

I liked most of this episode. Can't say I appreciated the costumer's choices in every case.

Vocal EK said...

I just watched this episode tonight (10/19/2013) and the oath struck a chord with me as well. For the past 5 years I have been spending a lot of time trying to correct the partial truths and outright lies being told by scientists who obviously don't value telling the the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and who think it is fine for them to express "concerns" without making it perfectly clear that they have no evidence that would support their theory of the bad things that might happen. I smoked for 45 years and none of the "approved treatments" gave me lasting escape from this addiction. I finally found something that worked and was shocked to find out that the entire scientific community was opposed to smokers using this. Have you noticed that the smoking rates, after being stalled at around 46 millions adults for 20 years, began coming down in 2010 and have continued downward? As of 2011, the numbers were down to 43.5 million. That's quite a drop. It is nearly 2014, and the CDC is not releasing the numbers for 2012. They recently announced that "use" of e-cigarettes has doubled among middle school and high school students. However, it was not regular use, but rather "ever use", that doubled. Ever use is the cumulative total of everyone who has ever tried a product, even if just one time, during the current year or any year in the past. "Current" use is defined by the CDC as having used a product within the 30 days preceding the survey--even if only one time. That statistic went up by only 1% -- from 1.1% in 2011 to 2.1% in 2012. The CDC did not ask how much nicotine (if any) students were using in their e-cigarette, and the agency did not ask how often students were using an e-cigarette. Yet the Director expressed a "concern" that students would become addicted to nicotine through use of an e-cigarette and that this would create an increase in initiation of smoking. A hallmark of addiction is a need to use a substance every day, and you can't become addicted to a substance if it is not present in the delivery device. The CDC did not discuss smoking statistics, but according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, past 30 day smoking among youth aged 12 - 17 years has been steadily going down and so has initiation of smoking. Both reached an all-time low in 2012.