I find it pretty irritating and disheartening when I’m talking about science and trying to explain something and someone says something like “Wow, you’re smart!” or “It’s amazing how you know so much!”
I get that it’s a compliment but it also creates the impression that I’m talking over your head or you don’t understand what I’m saying and that’s just disheartening. I never talk about science just to show off what I know, that’s a dick move and in any case there are huge areas of science I know nothing about and even in my own field (planetary science) there’s an awful lot I still have left to learn so it would be just plain silly of me to show off because I know very very little of what there is to know about science!
I talk about science because I’m passionate about science and even more passionate about explaining it and sharing it with others (that’s why my dream is to be a science writer/educator rather than an actual scientist). If all you walk away from a conversation with me about science with is “wow, he’s smart” then it feels like I’ve failed at trying to share science with you and get you to appreciate it the way I do.
If you’re interested in what I have to say but don’t understand, please ask me, don’t just think “oh, he’s smart”! I want you to leave that conversation thinking about what I just said, not about me. The Universe is a lot more interesting than I am.