Science & Society
Lab rats generally don’t live pleasant lives. Some are infected with diseases. Some are exposed to radiation. Some are sucked nearly dry with ticks. But occasionally a rat makes it lucky and is chosen to participate in a study on pleasure and rewards, where the pleasure and rewards are sex.
You might think, as I once did, that initiating rat sex would be straightforward. Male rat + female rat = GO! And… mission complete!
This past weekend I attended Science Online 2011
—the "un-conference" conference of writers, bloggers, journalists, artists, programmers, and anyone else who uses the internet as a tool for science communication—that gathers to discuss the impact and potential of this new medium in advancing science. There are a few posts I'm preparing that address specific topics from the conference, but first I wanted to mention a very personal experience I had which has completely changed my perspective on the science blogging community, and where my place is in that community.
America has been a global powerhouse more due to individual and small group initiative than the large, government projects currently popular. But the U.S. seems to have a widening 'inventor' gap - people who regard themselves as creative and interested in science math and desiring to help society. While the U.S. relies on big funding, Indians make $4 microscopes so everyone can have fun with science and generate interest.
The 2011 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index announced today indicates there is a generational basis for the looming shortfall. Americans aged 16–25 possess creativity, interest in science and math and preference for working in groups or with mentors yet do not regard themselves as inventive.
Among the more zealous atheists in the science community, religious people are one big jumble of intellectual immaturity, if not outright stupidity, bent on replacing science classes with the New Testament.(1)
Hey, that's nicer than what they say about Republicans.
But, whether you are religious or not, The Bible is likely part of your cultural lexicon. So whereas if kookier science pundits want to send a negative message, they compare all who disagree with them to Holocaust deniers (calling opponents Nazis is too cliché) because they can't bring themselves to use Biblical comparisons, moderate folks use liturgical imagery in more positive ways.
I admit it: when I sat down with Ingmar Riedel-Kruse, an Assistant Professor in Bioengineering at Stanford University, to discuss a possible rotation project, my first question for him was “why?” I wasn’t confused about why he was studying developmental patterning - that’s what had drawn me into his office in the first place. What confused me was the second path that his young lab was pursuing: biotic games.
It is well known among those who study schizophrenia that speech which does not reflect the true underlying reality produces the kinds of violent and crazy reactions displayed by the assassin of Tucsan. When we can no longer trust that the words our elected representatives, that our public servants, say are true and reflective of their beliefs, a deliberative and representative democracy can no longer function, and it will necessarily devolve into a system where might equals right and violence becomes a preferred means of political expression.
I am acutely aware of my advantages as a tall, white, semi-able-bodied Westerner with middle class background in a northern European culture. I had and still have it much easier than most people especially here in China. Believe me, I am 100% fully aware of how unfair life is, of how much I should not take for granted, and especially of how easy I could have had it, if I had played the usual game with the cards I was dealt. Without my unfair edge, I would not even have been able to dare play my own game.
Is there still gender discrimination in science? We hear about it even today but is it a real problem or is it primarily a problem in that 'if there is even one instance it is too many' way that zealots insist on zero tolerance, even when applied to individuals who sometimes make decisions based on silly reasons.
over PZ Myers' condescending response to a 12-year-old child
's email supporting creationism, reminded of a very interesting conversation I had with my father at a dinner this holiday season. Lemons and lemonade, people.
During our conversational meanderings, we touched on the debate between creationism and evolution. We did not directly discuss the political/social issues surrounding the teaching of evolution in schools. Rather, we discussed the difficulty of convincing individuals that evolution is right and creationism is wrong.
... as depressing as that may be to hear. Some friends recently described their December trip to India, the first time they've visited in years. India's economy is on fire, unleashing some tremendous pent-up economic demand. What was striking, my friends related, was how strongly India's economic development is geared toward the future, towards not only catching up with wealthier, more developed nations, but also towards anticipating and meeting economic challenges that loom in the future. This is in stark contrast to the US, which seems, at best, focused on defending the status quo.