One of my favorite guilty pleasure movies is Oceans 11, by far the best of the trilogy. In one early scene, George Clooney’s character – fresh out of prison – meets up with his ex-wife, played by Julia Roberts, who happens to be an art buff. They have this exchange:

"I always confuse Monet and Manet. Which one married his mistress?"

"Monet."
"And Manet had syphilis."
"They also painted occasionally."

I’ve always loved that last line. It captures the idea that we appreciate artists or scientists not for their foibles but for their body of work. The truly great ones almost always have a touch of madness in them that leads to aberrant behavior, but "The Raven" is so brilliant we don’t care if Poe was a drunk or abused drugs.
This week humankind landed it’s first spacecraft on a comet. It was an historic event, one I followed fairly closely. The scientists and engineers who headed this effort rightly became international celebrities, for they had accomplished something truly amazing. There are very few "firsts" anymore.
Would it surprise you at all to learn that at least one of the people who’d spent the last decade shepherding the Philae Lander onto a small hunk of rock in space is less than adept in social situations?
Meet Dr. Matt Taylor:
He is a "heavily tattooed London scientist [who] had become a firm favorite with the public for his unlikely appearance and enthusiastic interviews."
There is only one problem – his shirt.
Astrophysicist Katie Mack was aghast: "I don’t care what scientist wear. But a shirt featuring women in lingerie isn’t appropriate for a broadcast if you care about women in science." Apparently she does care.
Rose Eveleth of The Atlantic was even more blunt on Twitter, saying "No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt" and "Thanks for ruining the cool comet landing for me asshole."
Now, as someone who has worn an inappropriate shirt or two in my lifetime (just ask my mother) I can see the humor in Dr. Taylor’s shirt. I’m also certain that someone should have pulled him aside before the cameras started rolling and said, "Hey, dude, I’ve got a spare shirt in the back…why don’t you change into that."
Oh, also…this guy just landed a spacecraft on a freaking comet! Maybe we should let him slide on the shirt thing for a couple days.
But hold that thought for a moment. Because something else earth shattering happened the same day Dr. Taylor was landing a probe on a comet. Kim Kardashian tried to break the internet.
Impossible you say? I think you mean improbable, because if anyone can do it using only her derriere, she can.
The same day that The Atlantic’s Rose Eveleth was scolding Dr. Taylor for wearing a shirt depicting scantily clad women, The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert was publishing a thousand word essay dissecting Kim Kardashian’s fully nude body, focusing on her rear end, in a piece called "Everything Butt the Girl."
Her hard-hitting analysis concludes with this paragraph: "For a woman’s rear to truly be fetishized, her face has to be turned away, rendering her slightly less human. It’s a pose that Kardashian does her best to counter, wrenching her neck toward the camera as best she can, but it doesn’t seem wholly comfortable."
Count me as someone who’s never truly understood the Kardashian phenomenon. Like Paris Hilton before her, she’s famous for two things: starring in a pornographic video that was accidentally-on-purpose leaked to the public, and for being famous.
In my opinion, the second picture should be far more disturbing than the first. Kardashian, to my knowledge, has actually accomplished very little outside of the fashion and entertainment industries, and what she has accomplished in those industries is entirely due to the exploitation of her nude or semi-nude body.
Dr. Taylor, on the other hand, has assisted in accomplishing a feat no other human has ever done – he landed a probe on a freaking comet!
No one would remember either Monet or Manet if they had only married their mistress or had syphilis, and I suspect a few years from now the Kardashians will be mostly, if not entirely, forgotten.
Dr. Taylor won’t be. He’ll be remembered for his accomplishments, so lets cut him a little slack on the shirt.
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