"Without science we would still be living in caves"

What a great concept for a column by Virginia Postrel: the way that TV is changing the image of the scientist. Her opening: a 1957 survey of images about scientists carried out by Margaret Mead:

The number of ways in which the image of the scientist contains extremes which appear to be contradictory -- too much contact with money or too little; being bald or bearded; confined to work indoors, or traveling far away; talking all the time in a boring way, or never talking at all -- all represent deviations from the accepted way of life, from being a normal friendly human being, who lives like other people and gets along with other people.

This is a clever leaping-off point to write about Gil Grissom and Charlie Epps, the two TV scientists who most put the humanity back into the Vulcan-like image of the scientist.

Rather than releasing the Monsters of the Id, science provides a bulwark against them. "You spend your life uncovering what goes on beneath the surface of civility and acceptable behavior," the insightful dominatrix Lady Heather tells Grissom in the first of her recurring appearances, "so it's a release for you to indulge in something like high tea, where it seems, if only for a moment, the world really is civilized." People don't need science or advanced technology to do terrible things to each other.

Well, most scientists don't keep a dominatrix around their lab for tea, but this is still a nice twist on the old Frankenstein theme. In her blog post about the article, Postrel points to Carl Zimmer's continuing scientific tattoo series as an object lesson in the new scientific chic.