In recent years, we’ve seen a few-larger-than-life characters spring from unlikely, geeky roots.
He grew up as the epitome of geekiness. He dove headfirst into his home computer projects, creating a home communication system he called “Zucknet,” and building video games around the art created by his friends. His parents even hired a computer tutor to come over once a week to work with the young prodigy. All this, of course, led to his Harvard dorm-room creation of Facebook, which brought new meaning to terms like “wall,” “sharing” and “like.”
What planetarium director becomes a rock star? Neil deGrasse does, that’s who. The astrophysicist not only heads up the Hayden Planetarium in New York, but he also hosts two popular TV shows, “Star Talk” and “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.” His traveling lectures sell out in large venues across the country. Best of all, we like how he is utterly fearless about flying his geek flag as he calls out blockbuster films for their sloppy science. (Sometimes, they listen: James Cameron corrected the night sky in a re-release of “Titanic.”)
He stepped up the science-at-home game of Mr. Wizard by delivering it with a punchy succinctness that made science accessible and even fun for his millennial home viewers. In more recent years, however, he’s emerged as a colorful spokesman for science, even jumping into a territory that most in the science community felt was too dignified to even acknowledge: countering arguments presented by skeptics of climate change and evolution. By engaging in these debates, he has emerged as a freedom fighter in favor of reason and truth.
The man who played Mr. Sulu on TV’s “Star Trek” on went on to become one of Facebook’s first mega stars, gathering a massive following as his team handed out quips, memes and stories we never knew we wanted. Takei isn’t known for his contributions to hard science, but he does represent a triumph for the geeks. And society wasn’t too kind to the fans and their devotion to the show, even long after it was canceled. Sadly, these naysayers failed to see its heart, that it always wanted to be “about something,” stretching its arms far beyond the “alien of the week” formula and all its cheesy special effects.
What ties them all together? We’d say they stepped boldly into their truth: Being geeky isn’t something to hide, but something to celebrate and share with the world. Even if they don’t accept it immediately, don’t worry. They’ll catch up someday.
Let your kids fly their Geek flag at a Bricks 4 Kidz class, building LEGO models.