Given the sheer volume of media clamoring for your attention 24/7, it’s hard to imagine a minute-long video titled “How Does A Nuclear Reactor Work?” standing out. But 30-year-old Brazilian model Isabelle Boemeke is an expert marshal of your focus, and she’ll make sure you watch it. “Imagine that these aliens with cowboy hats are uranium atoms,” she instructs against a night-sky background, donning futuristic wrap sunglasses and a neon pink cutout bodysuit. “Pretend that my head is a neutron — neutrons are very sassy.”
This is Isodope, Boemeke’s internet persona, who serves as the world’s first “nuclear energy influencer,” as she puts it. Active across TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube with a combined audience of more than 60,000 followers, Boemeke produces informational videos about climate change with a focus on nuclear energy. Videos like these are typically dry and often languish unwatched, but because of Boemeke’s arsenal of attention-grabbing tools — eye-catching outfits, vaporwave-y aesthetic flourishes, pitch-shifted vocals, fast cutting, subverted internet tropes and unforgettable analogies — she routinely rack up hundreds of thousands of views.
After watching her videos, for example, you’ll never forget that uranium pellets are roughly the size of a gummy bear, and you might also find yourself harboring a protective fondness for the Diablo Canyon power plant in California. “I prefer to focus on a few key points that are mind-blowing,” she tells me. “One uranium pellet has as much energy as 2,000 pounds of coal. That’s pretty incredible, and when people see it visually represented, it sticks.”
A fashion model since the age of 17 with no formal scientific training, Boemeke might seem an unlikely nuclear energy advocate. But after moving to the U.S. to advance her modeling career, she “accidentally” read the book that sparked her scientific curiosity, Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth, and she’s been a voracious consumer of scientific information ever since. Boemeke “found [her] tribe” of scientists and science communicators on Twitter, including NASA heavyweight Carolyn Porco, who sparked her interest in nuclear energy when she tweeted about molten salt thorium reactors in 2016. Today, Boemeke still uses Twitter to forge impressive connections with industry experts who inform and critique her work.
The fact that Boemeke is self-taught and relatively removed from academia and the industry is part of what makes her such an effective science communicator: She’s got a keen sense of how to keep lay viewers interested, which isn’t always true of more credentialed nuclear advocates. “People who are promoting nuclear [energy] are usually engineers or scientists who are amazing at their job but not great at communication,” she told Pod of Jake. “Very few people have the patience to watch a two-hour video with a guy writing on a whiteboard and talking about nuclear energy reactors.”
Boemeke has the patience not only to consume those videos, but to distill them into something thousands of people who are otherwise unengaged with science will watch. She tells me it takes her “at least two weeks to create a minute-long video,” as she drafts, tweaks and laboriously fact-checks her scripts — often in direct consultation with her expert contacts. Then, she shoots and edits them all herself. “Getting to look like Isodope is also quite a process on its own, between hair styling, press-on nails and face jewels,” she adds. “It takes me an hour or so to transform into the character.”
But why nuclear power? “After the Australian and Amazon fires, I felt a need to use my platform to help tackle climate change,” she says. “As I started reading into what it would take to solve it, it became clear nuclear energy needs to be a part of the solution. There’s one problem, though, which is that people hate and fear this technology, even though it’s one of the safest and most reliable forms of energy production.” She adds that “people go on and on about nuclear waste, when in reality nuclear is the only energy-generating industry that’s responsible for its waste. It’s a very small amount, all accounted for, and it’s properly stored and has never hurt anyone. Meanwhile, the waste from fossil fuels spills into the environment, pollutes our air, causes climate change and kills five million people every year, with zero accountability to the industry that produces it. That’s crazy! Why aren’t we all talking about this? The disconnect is abysmal.”
Boemeke says pop culture “has done a tremendous job of painting [nuclear energy] as the bad guy” — think of Burns’ Alien on The Simpsons, the Duke Nukem villain on Captain Planet or the catastrophic Chernobyl miniseries. So she figured she’d use her corner of the pop-cultural sphere to set the record straight. “That’s how I got to the idea of using makeup tutorials and ‘What I Eat in a Day’ types of videos to draw people in, but actually talk about nuclear energy,” she continues. “I like to play with influencer tropes and types of content that society expects of me, a female fashion model with a social media presence.”
For Boemeke, science is a “profound source of ‘spirituality,’” and she sometimes describes it as a kind of mental health corrective, crediting David Deutsch’s The Beginning of Infinity with “freeing [her] from nihilism” and Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot with consoling her “in periods of darkness.” For her audience of depressed, anxious Zoomers, Boemeke’s optimism about neutrons and uranium pellets is likely to be infectious.
And that’s exactly her plan: If her work helps increase public support for nuclear technology she’ll be happy, but if she can inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and leaders, that’s even better. “My target audience is young people online who would otherwise never think about nuclear energy,” she says. “The idea is to present just enough information in a crazy enough way to instill curiosity and motivate them to do more research.”
As for the future of Isodope, Boemeke says it’s hard to know what that will look like. While science is likely to remain her main area of interest, if she succeeds in rehabilitating nuclear energy’s reputation, she won’t hesitate to switch topics. “The idea of promoting nuclear energy was born out of a very clear need,” she explains. “But I’m too curious to stick to one lane. The only thing I can guarantee is that I’ll keep trying to make sense of the world, and share my findings in unexpected and visually interesting ways.”