Everyone loves a gripping story, and anything involving family secrets seems to have particular power. The Star Warsseries was hugely popular not just for its eye-popping special effects and epic mythology, but also for its tangled familial relationships. Darth Vader is Luke's father? Leia is his sister? It's positively Dickensian in its intricate genealogical scope.
Science has its stories, too, as evidenced by the special story-telling event held during the World Science Festival in New York City earlier this month: Matter: Stories of Atoms and Eves, hosted by The Moth performance space. Half the stories told by the six featured scientists -- before a rapt, appreciative audience -- dealt with family history. Of those, Nobel-Prize-winning geneticist (Sir) Paul Nurse of Rockefeller University pretty much stole the show with this charming (and moving) account of how he discovered the truth about his parentage:
Nurse is remarkably sanguine about this twist to his family's history, regretting only that he never had the chance to talk about his origins with his biological mother before she died. "And then there is the final irony that even though I am a geneticist, my family managed to keep my genetic origins secret from me for over half a century," he writes in the addendum to his Nobel Prize autobiography.
We're sure Luke and Leia could totally relate. Nor is Nurse an anomaly (although he clearly has a knack for narrative): science is filled with these sorts of fascinating untold stories. One of the goals of bringing scientists and Hollywood together is to tap into the power of those untold stories to reach the broadest possible audience, so that they can better appreciate the rich history and diversity of this field -- and its people.