The Cool Scientist
Dec 8, 2011 by eaa073000
I must admit I have never really been inerested in the natural sciences. I’ve always been more interested in the social sciences. I guess it is because of the bohemian and care-free lifestyle of the social scientist fits more my personality (yes, I can be sociable believe it or not). I have ignorantly bought into the stereotype of the weird, sociably awkward, emotionally numb and not too sane scientist. This is why I find Kim Stanley Robinson’s Fifty Degrees Below so refreshing . The novel tries to, and up to a certain point, achieves two important objectives: makes science– in this case global warming– an entertaining topic to read about and makes the scientist cool. I think he achieves the latter precisely because Frank Vanerwal breaks with sereotypes in a lot of ways. He is still weird, or at least he does things that the average person might consider weird. Although I think he does things that the average person secretly wishes he/she could do. He gives up his material possessions to literally live out of his car and atop a tree. Though not conventional, it certainly must feel liberating. What I found appealing and shocking at the same time is that he actually works out. Scientists aren’t supposed to work out. Are they? Fred isn’t emotionally numb either. We could say he wears his heart on his sleeve, in love with a woman he can’t have and platonically attracted to his boss. A scientist with conflicting emotions, how cool is that. K.S.R. has found in Fred Vanderwal the perfect vehicle that maintains readers abreast with a highly important issue such as global warming. Yes, at times I did lose interest because of the scientific jargon, but the novel has renewed my interest on the topic of global warming and it made me realize that no matter how old I get, I too want to save the world.