Is Barack Obama a closet geek?

From fusion energy to honeybee colony collapse, President Obama comes across as a serious science geek, says his chief advisor on science and technology.

Boston Globe

He's no secret Muslim.

But President Obama is a secret science geek who "ponders honeybee colony collapse disorder, fusion energy, and climate change," when the cameras aren't rolling.

That's according to John Holdren, Mr. Obama’s chief adviser on science and technology, who in an interview with NPR, revealed his boss's little-known secret obsession.

“First of all he is a science geek,” Mr. Holdren told NPR’s "Living Lab on the Point" program, adding that Obama is “enormously interested in and enormously well-informed about science technology innovation.”

“I can never predict what kind of question I will get from this president,” Holdren said.

Case in point: Obama asked to have a one-on-one chat with Holdren on fusion energy because of a conversation the President had had with a member of Congress. After the fusion energy chat was over, Obama asked, “by the way, how are we doing about honeybee colony collapse disorder?"

More proof that Obama is "Chief Geek?"

The White House has also held series of online chats called “#WeTheGeeks,” which are meant to highlight and discuss interesting U.S.-based science and technology innovation, as Think Progress reported.

“He is only president ever to have held a White House science fair and he has held four of them," Holdren told NPR.

And for a guy who's well-practiced at feigning interest at the hundreds of events and appearances he must attend, Obama's child-like delight at the White House science fairs are no secret.

"I love this event!" Obama told an audience of students and teachers at the 2014 White House Science Fair. "This is one of my favorite things all year long."

And then there was the time he ticked off the Secret Service by going off script and helping fire an eighth-grader's award winning high-speed marshmallow air cannon at the drapes of the White House's elegant State Dining Room.

"Let's try it out!" Obama declared, surprising aides and the handful of reporters who had gathered inside the State Dining Room for the tour, as the Associated Press reported in 2012. "OK, back up guys, this is a little impromptu," he said, adding, "The Secret Service is going to be mad at me about this."

So it's really no surprise that Holdren calls Obama the “most science-aware president since Thomas Jefferson.”

But it turns out Obama isn't the only commander-in-geek to rank high on the presidential geek registry.

President Truman signed the bill that created the National Science Foundation, and President Lincoln signed a bill that created the National Academy of Sciences.

As a Navy-trained nuclear engineer, who created the US Department of Energy and funded the Hubble Space Telescope, President Carter had ample geek cred, as did President Hoover, a mining engineer.

The science heavyweights, though, were John Quincy Adams, an avid amateur astronomer whose efforts led to what is now the U.S. Naval Observatory; Teddy Roosevelt, a committed naturalist and conservationist who oversaw the creation of the US Forest Service, and who explored the Amazon basin as part of the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition after his presidency; and Thomas Jefferson, who spent the week he was named vice president presenting a formal paper on paleontology and sponsored the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the west.

According to legend, Jefferson always wanted to be a scientist, even when he was president. 

So it turns out Obama, who once helped daughter Sasha with a science project by dropping eggs from the Truman Balcony, is in good company.

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