It’s a great privilege for me to not only interview a TV star, but a Ph.D holder and a Black female scientist, Moogega Cooper. Moogega is one of the final five contestants on TBS’ reality competition spectacular, King of the Nerds.
She has done plenty of genius stuff: she attended Hampton University while still in high school, earned her Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Thermal Fluid Sciences, and works as a Planetary Projection Engineer for NASA. (NASA!)
Dr. Cooper has co-authored scientific papers such as Uniform and Filamentary Nature of Continuous-Wave and Pulsed Dielectric Barrier Discharge Plasma. In addition, Moogega co-authored the song Nerds Are King among assorted antics on King of the Nerds. After reading this interview, you may have appreciation for not only the beautiful woman you see on TV Thursday nights, but the beautiful mind she possesses.
Red-Headed Mule: Congratulations. You’ve a Ph.D, you work for NASA, and your butt will be remembered for posterity (98+ Likes for a page about your backside which is more than my Facebook page) How do you feel?
Moogega Cooper:Yes, my rear-end is getting a lot of attention. I spend a great deal of time working out and training so I’m glad that it is being appreciated, but second to my mind which is my more important quality.
RHM: What did you think of the meteor that landed in Russia?
MG: I think it was unfortunate for those who were injured (over 1,000 people). I also feel that it is an interesting reminder of how we are a tiny speck of rock in this cosmic universe filled with dynamic components which interact every once in a while (it happens very often actually, but the is at a scale
where it is noticeable).
RHM: You’ve studied Martian samples and there’s lots of ballyhoo about whether Mars can sustain life. What are thoughts on reports that Europa, a moon on Jupiter, is the “most likely place in our solar system beyond Earth to possess life.”
MG: Yes, I’ve studied Martian analogue samples. We have yet to physically collect a Martian sample and return it to Earth, yet there are rocks which were ejected from Mars and landed on the earth which scientists at various institutions are studying. I agree that Europa can definitely sustain life in its subglacial lakes.
Do not forget that there are geothermal processes occurring deep down in the lake which can supply nutrients and building blocks for life to exist.
I briefly worked on a project which used a submarine to search for life in subglacial lakes with an ultimate goal of using the same technology on Europa. There is a lot of effort at NASA on that front and it is such an exciting venture.
RHM: Which was more stressful, trying to grok the non-standard Sudoku or your teammates trying to help you solve it?
MG: First of all, I love your word choice. I happened to read Stranger in a Strange Land but a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I think the biggest obstacle was trying to implement the rules of this modified Sudoku game. Those diagonals were difficult to keep track of when there was a vast empty space of boxes that you had to accurately trace your hand through.
Having a meter stick would have helped. It was an added stress factor to have a multi-player aspect, but once we communicated a base set of rules we were able to collectively contribute to the solution.
RHM: If you could speak to one major historical figure in Black American, who would it be and why?
MG: That is a tough question. There were many African-American historical figures who paved the way and fought their entire lives so that future generations could have the rights and liberties which humans deserve. This was done through various means, to include protests, speeches, and music.
Music is a large part of who I am and one prominent figure that comes to mind is Sam Cooke. His song “A Change is Gonna Come” rings in my head not only to represent the turmoil and hope for change during the Civil Rights movement, but also in my own life. If there is a roadblock or if I do not like where things are going, I know that I have the power to make that change in my life, and that change is going to come.
I would love to talk to him about what he went through during that era and thank him for conveying this urge to change through music.
RHM: Favorite math equation.
MG: The Schrödinger equation
RHM: Mr. Wizard, Beakman, or Bill Nye?
MG: Bill Nye!
RHM: Better biopic title, “There’s Something About Moogega” or “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Moogega” or “Hangin’ With Dr. Cooper?” No fourth option, please.
MG:I’d go with “How do you solve a problem like Moogega” as a huge fan of the Sound of Music.
RHM: If you and Danielle formed a wrestling tag team, what would the name of it be?
MG:I actually looked up a wrestling name generator and my name turned out to be Ivan Monk and Danielle’s turned out to be Full Metal Tempest so I am guessing the Full Metal Monks.
RHM: How many players does it take to play the Game of Life?
MG:The real game of life? It takes an infinite amount of players.
RHM: How will you fight American anti-intellectualism?
MG: The only thing I can do is be myself and spread the knowledge and motivation to learn more about math, science, and anything intellectual. I do not think Americans are anti-intellectual. There may be people who like to find the easiest way, but hey, that is how great inventions are made too!
RHM: Any final words of wisdom?
MG: I think the Dalai Lama said it best – Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.
On a lighter note, here’s the next King of the Nerds interview subject tweeting Moogega:
— Virgil Griffith (@virgilgr) February 23, 2013