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Hippie Hair & Hawaiian Shirts: JPL is the 'Berkeley of NASA'

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America, geek is chic! This is thanks in no small part to the quirky team at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, seen most recently all over the news as their latest project, the Mars Curiosity rover, landed on the Red Planet. Of course, much of the attention has been lavished on "Mohawk guy" Bobak Ferdowsi, whose unusual 'do has captured the hearts and minds of America/Twitter. As the Associated Press points out, Ferdowsi's co-worker is "former rock `n' roller Adam Steltzner," who is "sometimes called 'Elvis Guy' because of his pompadour and sideburns." Oh, those guys are so whacky, right?

The AP goes on to say that mohawks and sideburns aren't the only things replacing pocket protectors as accessories in vogue there, referencing a recent interview with Ferdowsi in the L.A. Times: "JPL prides itself on its university-like atmosphere. Some engineers come to work in Hawaiian shirts, shorts and flip-flops. Others sport hippie hairstyles." JPL is "more like the Berkeley of NASA."

Even President Obama had to remark on JPL's trendy edginess in his congratulatory phone call to the team:

"I understand there's a special Mohawk Guy that's working on the mission. He's been one of the many stars of the show last Sunday night. And I, in the past, thought about getting a Mohawk myself but my team keeps on discouraging me. And now that he's received marriage proposals and thousands of new Twitter followers, I think that I'm going to go back to my team and see if it makes sense."
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JPL Director Charles Elachi replied: "That's going to be the new fashion at JPL." To which Obama remarked: "It does sound like NASA has come a long way from the white shirt, black dark-rimmed glasses and the pocket protectors. You guys are a little cooler than you used to be."

It's tough to get cooler when it's already pretty cool to be a team of scientists taking on projects like Mars Curiosity, no matter what your hair is doing or what shirt you're wearing. But it's also hard to out-dork the hard-core geekdom that is the workplace of men who turn the Mars Curiosity into a 313-piece Lego model with voluminous instructions. Awww. Yay, JPL geeks!