I confess that Hakeem Oluseyi had not really risen on my radar screen until the last year or two. I was aware of the National Society of Black Physicists, having sometimes gotten notices about is meetings, but, being generally unsupportive of current efforts to compartmentalize scientists by their identity, I hadn’t really paid much notice to it. Then, in one of those ironies that periodically makes one feel better about the vicissitudes of fortune, I learned more about him only after people had attempted to cancel him.
When I read about Hakeem’s brave and impressive campaign to uncover the truth about James Webb after a small but unduly loud group of physicists, whose actions seem to be centered about their mutually celebrated victimhood, argued that the James Webb Space Telescope should be renamed, my interest in him, along with my respect for him, rose considerably.
Prompted by this newfound interest, I read a book he had co-authored, entitled, A Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey from the Street to the Stars, and I was fascinated by the remarkable transformation of a hillbilly turned drug dealer into an academic. Here was someone who could have reveled in begin a victim by lashing out in hate, but instead was inspired to improve himself and those around him. I decided I wanted to delve deeper into the man, his life, his science, and his recent unfortunate experiences while holding firm to the search for truth in a podcast. It was a fun, and fascinating few hours. Hakeem and I both like to joke as well as tell stories, and we are both serious about the effort to understand nature, and to share our enthusiasm about that effort. I hope the combination of our mutual enjoyment about life and science, along with learning about his own story will inspire, entertain and inform. I certainly enjoyed our discussion and I hope you will as well.
As always, an ad-free video version of this podcast is also available to paid Critical Mass subscribers. Your subscriptions support the non-profit Origins Project Foundation, which produces the podcast. The audio version is available free on the Critical Mass site and on all podcast sites, and the video version will also be available on the Origins Project Youtube channel as well.
And a reminder that The Origins Project Foundation is programming some live upcoming events, including a live podcast with Richard Dawkins in Birmingham Sept 25th, and two live events in Southern California museums. Oct 15th, at the Bowers Museum, I will be giving a presentation on my new book, and Oct 17th Brian Keating and I will be recording a joint podcast at the San Diego Air and Space Museum. Go to originsproject.org for more info and the opportunity to purchase tickets.