Is there something inherent to punk rock that attracts scientists? At first blush, there would seem to be little overlap between the methodical deliberation of science and the loud aggression of punk. Yet, upon deeper inspection, the similarities start to become apparent. Both are magnets for individuals willing to question convention. Both involve a search for truth. And both rely on creative insights and breakthroughs that spur passion and excitement.
“If I write a song, to me, it’s no different than if I make some discovery in the lab,” says Milo Aukerman, a plant biochemist working at DuPont who also fronts the punk-rock band Descendents. “Your heart races, and you have this sense of exhilaration.” Bad Religion lead singer Greg Graffin, who also is an evolutionary biology lecturer at Cornell University, agrees: “I think there’s a tremendous
similarity in creativity in science and in music or art.”
So what is it about punk that makes it so amenable to creative people? Punk is "thinking for yourself and doing what you want – and not accepting something as truth just because someone else says it," explains Dexter Holland, the lead singer for the Offspring, who is working on his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California. He says that the “attitude of questioning things” appeals to people who like to think deeply about issues.
The profiles of Aukerman, Holland and Graffin featured in this issue (see links on the right) explore how each musician-scientist has used his creative energy to foment successful forays in the lab and on stage. Moreover, what they have to say about the juxtaposition of their scientific and musical careers goes a long way toward erasing the stereotypes of the geeky, introverted, lab coat-clad scientist and the angry, impulsive, Mohawk-sporting punk.
Holland captures it best when he says, "Something that is established doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true."
Read our interviews with Aukerman, Holland and Graffin.