Science Becomes 'Sexy' With Fast Cars And Gangsta Physics

The online magazine Ozy covers people, places and trends on the horizon. Co-founder Carlos Watson joins All Things Considered regularly to tell us about the site's latest discoveries.

This week, Ozy co-founder Carlos Watson tells NPR's Arun Rath about a gangster-turned-astrophysicist and a race car driver working to making science "sexy" again. Plus, a look at the changing landscape of African art — no tribal masks allowed.

The New And The Next

  • The Gangster Scientist

    Gangster Scientist i i
    Courtesy of Ozy
    Gangster Scientist
    Courtesy of Ozy

    Those who love the Discovery Channel or ... National Geographic will enjoy his television shows — but little will they know that before he was a Stanford Ph.D. astrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi was a college dropout.

    Always loved physics — from the time he was in the fifth grade. In fact, made his way to college, but didn't do well. Dropped out and pursued much more of a gangster lifestyle, and ultimately doubled back, got his degree and made his way through a very rigorous program at Stanford and today is one of the increasingly popular public scientists.

    So he was working at one of the big firms, Applied Materials, for a number of years after his Ph.D. but ultimately decided his heart wasn't in it. And ... said, "I want to go back to academia and research and study." And in particular spends a lot of time looking at space exploration.

    Read 'The Gangsta Physicist' On Ozy.com

  • A New Breed Of Speedracer

    J.R. Hildebrand i i
    Todd Rosenberg/Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images
    J.R. Hildebrand
    Todd Rosenberg/Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images

    So J.R. Hildebrand started racing go karts at the age of 14. Realized he was pretty good at it — maybe even better than he was at baseball, but better than either of those two things was his aptitude for math and science. He was so good that he got an acceptance from MIT, and ultimately he said no so that he could go out and become the next Dale Earnhardt or Jeff Gordon.

    He thinks that for so many people who don't relate to math and science, he thinks, "What better real life example is there than kind of fast cars and big time races?" As much as he wants to win the Indy 500, what he really wants to do is make math and science sexy again.

    Read 'Why Go To MIT When You Can Race Cars?' On Ozy.com

  • African Art, Reimagined

    The End of Eating Everything, 2013 by Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu i i

    hide captionThe End of Eating Everything, 2013 by Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu

    Wangechi Mutu
    The End of Eating Everything, 2013 by Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu

    The End of Eating Everything, 2013 by Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu

    Wangechi Mutu

    Look no further than the very famous Tate Museum in London ... one of their big exhibitions recently had to do with African art. But it wasn't the same kinds of African art that we used to think about — the tribal masks and some of the other things.

    Instead, these works of art coming from Ghana and Benin and Kenya and some other places had as much to do with race, with class, with aspiration. I think this is part of a broader rediscovery, if you will, of Africa.

    I think one of the real important questions, though, is: Will we start to see any interesting galleries and museums on the African continent? And will those be available to students and to families and to everyday people, so that they can enjoy it as well?

    Read 'African Beauty, Now' On Ozy.com

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