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September 30, 2008


Life's a little hectic right now so am just going to quote Alice:

Jen at Deliberate Pixel has had a tough month, but is going to pull out all the stops to get us an October Scientiae carnival. Get your posts in by Friday on anything or the theme "being a good example even in a misstep" and she'll post the carnival this weekend. Thanks, Jen!

Mud Puddle Frogs

Since his neck was broken in early June, Tom and I have been walking around the neighborhood a lot. It's beautiful, it helps build and heal bones and it preserves whatever sanity we have left. One of the joys of our walks has been the frogs. While we like the frogs who come to visit our neighbor's fish pond; our favorite frogs are the ones in the mud puddle in the middle of the dirt road. The pattern: it rains hard, a big mud puddle forms, 24 hours later there are three or four little frogs peering out of the muddy water. This goes on until the puddle dries up. Next big rain same thing happens. Usually there are three or four visible frogs and they are always about the size. Over the past four months this has happened maybe 10 different times.

So my biologist friends I have a silly question. Where do the frogs go when the puddle dries up and why do they come back? We live on a lake but it doesn't seem to be frog jumping distance to the road and if you are in the lake why go to the mud puddle? (Ok that last question may be more philosophical than biological).

So some people are worried about the economy, others about the election. Not me I've given up on that. I'm worried about the frogs.

September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

Ok I know that is this a blog about women and science, but folks it is Paul Newman about whom we are speaking. Paul Newman-- racer, actor, feminist, world changer, philanthropist and the only man in the world who ever came close to being as gorgeous as FairerScience partner Tom Kibler (yup I'm biased but I've seen both Paul Newman and Tom Kibler in person so I feel my judgment is valid). Paul Newman did so much for so many for so long. The world is better for him being in it. So go buy some Newman's Own popcorn and watch "The Sting" and celebrate his life.

September 26, 2008

Settle in for an Online Scientific Quilting Bee

Thatís right, weíve been long overdue for another one of my posts highlighting the intersection of creativity and science. Todayís highlights are both quilts. I love quilts, I have fond memories of the colorful red quilt my mother made for me and last year I started to learn how to quilt. I have yet to complete my first effort, but the quilts Iím showing off today are just the inspiration I need to get back to it.

I first learned about quilts featuring genomes and the solar system via the Craft magazine website. The genome quilts by Beverly St. Clair are simply unbelievable Ė colorful, intricate, beautiful, and encoded with genetic information! The inspiration for these quilts is a true intersection of art and science; she describes attending an exhibit of Anni Alberís work one night and then a lecture on the Human Genome Project the next day. The results of those two events are stunning, all of her quilts are gorgeous, check out this one, featuring the hepatitis virus c gene!

Moving back in time, check out this cool quilt of the solar system. It was made in 1876 by Ellen Harding Baker, and is at the Museum of American History. The quilt is lovely but I was actually more struck by the historical background the museum provided, which touched on something I didnít know about the history of women in science:

ďEllen used the quilt as a visual aid for lectures she gave on astronomy in the towns of West Branch, Moscow, and Lone Tree, Iowa. Astronomy was an acceptable interest for women in the 19th century, and was sometimes even fostered in their education.Ē

As always, feel free to share with us your favorite examples of the intersection between science and art!

September 23, 2008

Sexist attitudes=More money

"Men with egalitarian attitudes about the role of women in society earn significantly less on average than men who hold more traditional views about women's place in the world." So begins an article from yesterday's Washington Post. And it goes on to say "If you divide workers into four groups -- men with traditional attitudes, men with egalitarian attitudes, women with traditional attitudes and women with egalitarian attitudes -- men with traditional attitudes earn far more for the same work than those in any of the other groups. There are small disparities among the three disadvantaged groups, but the bulk of the income inequality is between the first group and the rest." (And no they don't know why this is, that wasn't part of the study.)

Now two sentences like that can really ruin your day. Especially when the study, "Is the Gap More Than Gender? A Longitudinal Analysis of Gender, Gender Role Orientation, and Earnings" is very well done.

Before you get too depressed and start telling any handy male significant other to "be sexist; we need the money", let me tell you a little more about some of the things the study found.

First of all, those of us with more egalitarian attitudes toward gender are in good company: the list includes more educated and intelligent people (well no that doesn't mean that mean more educated, intelligent people make less money-- what can I say; it's just that whole whacky hierarchical linear modeling thing), African Americans, people who have been married for awhile (no they didn't say whether the relationship had to be happy or not), and city folk. Women are more egalitarian than men (big surprise) but these differences are narrowing over time as men are getting more egalitarian (you go guys!).

and I love what they wrote under practical implications of the study:

"Collectively, institutions that socialize children to accept traditional gender role orientations may be
sowing the seeds of gender economic inequality."

Well folks if that isn't a call to action I don't know what is.

PS Thanks to the American Psychological Association for making the study available to us for free.

September 21, 2008

Diary of a Midwife

FairerScience friend Kathryn Campbell-Kibler introduced me to this fascinating website . Martha Ballard was a New England healer and a midwife who started a diary when she was 50 and wrote in her diary nearly every day from January 1, 1785 to May 12, 1812.

There is a book and it is a good one, but it's the website you want to play with. The authors have both transcribed the diary and put up the original transcript. You can roll over a section of the original writing and see the transcription and even try to transcribe yourself (I failed). And of course you can search it. Technically it is cool.

Content wise it is even more interesting. Do you want learn about the use of herbs in healing during that time like Burdock to "sooth the stomach" or Culpeper to "staunch inward or outward bleedings" including "too abundant women's courses."? You can either search yourself or read the summaries and analysis the researchers have already done.

You can also read about midwifery and the transition to "man-midwives" and the changing of the view of birth as natural to something in need of intervention.

Want to just get a taste? Read "Some Stories and Themes from the Diary"

Premarital Pregnancy

Sally had worked for Martha and became pregnant with Jonathan Ballard's child while unmarried. Sally confessed to fornication and named Jonathan as the father of her unborn child, the first step in suing for child support. The child, Jonathan, Jr., was born in January. At the height of labor, the midwife, Martha Ballard, asked the mother to name the father of her child. Sally swore it was Jonathan. This was the legal custom and appears to have taken place, again at the woman's request, as the next step in obtaining child support. It was thought that a woman would not tell an untruth at the height of travail.

It's like a guilt free, true, soap opera with science and feminist themes. What could be better?

September 15, 2008

It's coming; it's coming

Last year I had a great time at the Second NC Science Blogging Conference and so, in so far as I could see (and read) did pretty much everyone else. Number three is coming soon, well Jan. 16-18, 2009. The name has changed, it's now Science Online' 09 and they are planning for it to be bigger and better.

Want to know more? Check out and contribute to the conference wiki. Or just trust me and register. You won't regret it.

September 12, 2008

Go Norfolk State!

I saw today that the engineering programs at Norfolk State received ABET accreditation.

"That's nice", you say, "but why are you posting about it?"

"Because", I say, "the ABET visiting team cited Norfolk State 'for the presence of a largely female faculty, including a female dean and university president, who can serve as role models.'"

Not only that, that female university president, she's an engineer!

September 09, 2008

Finally A Feminism 101 Blog

Yes really, there is Finally A Feminism 101 Blog. Thanks to FairerScience friend Kathryn Campbell-Kibler for introducing me to it.

It's a great find; just read it's purpose:.

The first reason FF101 exists is to help ensure that discussions between feminists donít get continually derailed by challenges from newbies and/or antagonists to explain and justify our terminology and conclusions to them, right now! Substantive challenges can be valuable, but constantly having to explain basic theory over and over, when an interesting discussion was underway, gets really frustrating. Thereís a time and a place for discussing the basics, and disrupting a discussion on other feminist topics is not that time and place.

But, this blog is one of those places for discussing basic feminist theory, and this is a place for asking questions about it, as long as you abide by the Comments Policy. The knowledgable can send the as-yet-uninformed here, where thereís plenty of introductory information to be found (remember to follow the links!). The sincerely curious can satisfy their quest for knowledge, and the ideologically antagonistic can at least learn which of their beliefs about feminism are well-founded and which are mere myths..

Questions are diverse ranging from Why do some people talk of feminisms? to Some feminist said/did something offensive/stupid/crazy/evil, so isnít feminism a failure? (My personal favorite).

The answers are thoughtful, interesting and, when necessary, snarky. There are lots of opportunities to go more deeply into a topic if you chose. It's a good resource but more importantly it is the perfect place to send the "what do feminists want?" commenters

September 01, 2008

Sid the Science Kid: A Review

PBS has a new kid's science show and website for kids 3-6, called "Sid the Science Kid". I went through the website but since I'm quite a bit older than six, it didn't make sense for me to review it. So FairerScience friends Seth Campbell-Mortman, who is six and Kathryn Campbell-Kibler, who is his mother, agreed to help. The following is their review, with Kathryn's contributions in brackets.

"Sid the Science Kid Website" is about science. It's trying to get kids to play with the stuff it has on it's website. So it's like a commercial, basically, based on science. I liked it.

[Was it trying to help kids learn or just for having fun?] I think it was for littler kids to learn and 6 year olds like me to have fun. I was having a great time.

The Playground part: There's four characters in it. You can play hide and seek there. Hide and seek is so easy because there's 4 squares and they're in one of those squares. I've actually found three of them the first try. I liked that game.

The Music part: You put on music, you can make music. You click blocks and stuff. I like it.

The Magnet part: I did not like that. I didn't like why you could not put the stuff together. The shiny nickel, I know it can connect to the magnet but you can't bring the magnet over to it and you also cannot bring the nickel over to the magnet. That's so stupid.

The Kitchen: The point of it is to open up this thingy and there's something on the plate underneath it and then all the other plates have things that are not the same thing and you try to guess which one the person heated up to make the thing.

[Did you like that one?] Yes.

[Did you learn anything from that one?] No, not at all. [Daddy adds: We learned some pretty bad jokes! I like the tomato paste one.] The one I really hate was the pumpkin patch one [joke]. But I certainly really like the tomato paste one.

Growing: I like that one. It was a little video. Of course, since the whole thing was about science, that was about science. So... I forget the rest of the bits.

The Moldy Sandwich: That was funny!

[Did you learn anything from the website that you didn't know already?] Only bad jokes.

[So you didn't learn anything new about science?] No.

[Was that because they didn't tell you anything about science or because they only told you things you already knew?] They put fruit inside of an ice block.

[What was that telling you about science?] If you pour warm water on it, everybody knows this except for little kids, if you pour warm water on it, it melts. Of course. That is so obvious.

[Parental observations: Seth was totally absorbed for more than an hour by the website. I didn't watch for the whole time, but I agree that I didn't hear or see the site telling him anything new. Not clear to me whether that was a goal or not. They did successfully get him to click on the TV schedule, where he seemed excited to learn there was an associated show. He hasn't pushed us to find it yet, though, so whether it will attract him as a new viewer remains to be seen.]

Seth Campbell-Mortman and Kathryn Campbell-Kibler

It's Time For The Scientiae Labor Day BBQ

So go on over to Lab Cat's and join the party. This one is quite wonderful. Ok I know I've said before, many times, how good the Carnivals are; but the range of the posts and the support offered by the Scientiae community this time is really moving.