Diversity

Space Is Not Friendly to Myopic Idiots

"You don't get to go live on the space station because you're a myopic idiot. So you don't need to treat the people that are speaking on behalf of the program as if their myopia and inherent idoacy will constantly cause them to say bad things."

Successful communication of your ideas can be just as important as the idea itself.

There is a stereotype that scientifically inclined people have communication problems. Scientists are seen as folks that can only speak with other scientists, either because they lack the basic communication skills or because they view themselves as above other non-scientific people. I've definitely seen both cases of this, but it's a small minority. Part of the mission of this blog is to eliminate this stereotype.

The above quote about myopic idiots by Chris Hadfield, former International Space Shuttle (ISS) Commander, speaks to the importance of opening our space research to all. The scientists and others involved with getting machinery and humans into space and back again should be trusted to share the awesomeness with others.  Astronauts in particular are trained to do incredible things - why not share it to as many people as possible? 

It's so funny to see Hadfield participate in a video chat from Earth. He's been a prolific fixture in audio and video chats during his time in space, so I'm used to seeing him in a spacesuit.  Check out the Google+ hangout below where Hadfield speaks about the space program and the need to be open and communicate the value of NASA and other government organizations.

 

Space Living: Now and the Future

Astronauts are currently enjoying space living and travel via the International Space Station (ISS), but what about the future? If the answer is on a government owned site, we're all lost. Almost all government websites and social media accounts are offline due to the government shutdown here in the good old United States. Luckily, the inefficiency of Congress doesn't reach out to Earth orbit, because past and present astronaut bios are still online (probably hosted on a non-government server), and the astronauts in the ISS are still tweeting!  Check out this wonderful shot from astronaut Luca Parmitano (@Astro_Luca)

Luca and others are living that space life. Former astronaut Garret Reisman visited the Q&A website Quora to give us some insight on what it's like to transition into life in space. Via Quora:

At first it's just weird.  
All kinds of things are happening to your body.  Your vestibular system is all messed up - your inner ear isn't working at all and it's sending garbage signals to your brain.  Your heart, which is used to pumping against gravity to do its most important job, delivering oxygenated blood to your brain, is now pumping too much and your head gets all puffed-up.  (I woke up in the middle of my first night in orbit and wondered why I was standing on my head for a few seconds, until I realized, no - I was just in space.)  When you close your eyes to go to sleep, you see lightning flashes inside your eyeballs.
And you have a hard time just moving around.  The first day is filled with apologies as you inevitably kick or elbow your crewmates as you thrash around like a fish out of water.
But eventually you get the hang of it, and for those of us who were lucky enough to do long-duration missions, about a month into flight you finally really get used to it.  Then you wake up in the morning, float out of your sleeping bag, shoot across the space station like superman and turn a few somersaults on the way to the galley for breakfast. 
Now you are a real spaceman!

It's pretty amazing that it takes a month to get used to it.  It usually takes me a few days to get over something as simple as jetlag if I'm flying across the country.  Then again, I may be at home in space since here on Earth I'm already known for inevtiably kicking or elbowing people close to me due to my clumsiness.

Below are a few more interesting videos from the Quora thread. Former ISS Commander Sunita Williams gives us a walk through in Nov 2012 before she departs back to Earth.  On the second video, YouTube user VSauce speaks about how long it may take us to truly live amongst the stars. Check them out!

Ada Lovelace Day: Support Matters

Transient

Ada Lovelace (1815 - 1852) is widely regarded as the world's first computer programmer, and this was in the 1840s! From today's Washington Post: 

Lovelace's friend Charles Babbage designed a concept for a machine he called the "Analytical Engine" -- essentially a mechanical computer that would have relied on punch cards to run programs. He recruited Lovelace to translate some notes from one of his lectures, but while Lovelace was translating she added to the notes herself. The notes grew to  three times their original length, as Lovelace described what many call the first computer program. Because of funding issues, the machine was not built during her and Babbage's lifetimes. But Lovelace's published article on the Analytical Engine later became a source of inspiration for Alan Turing’s work to build the first modern computers in the 1940s.
There are several articles and websites celebrating Ada Lovelace day. I found a particularly interesting article in Australian Science, which speaks about two other women in STEM with different support structures. Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie was encouraged to study by her father, grandfather, and husband.  Unfortunately, Clara Immerwahr lacked the same level of support, even though she was the first woman to get a Ph.D. from the University of Breslau. In fact, her husband Fritz Haber was involved with developing poison gas for use in World War 1. From the article:

Immerwahr was repulsed by Haber’s growing obsession with the development of poison gas. She confronted him numerous times but her pleas fell on deaf ears. On May 2nd 1915, she quarreled violently with Haber when she found out that he had come home for just the night and was leaving again in the morning to direct more poison gas attacks on the Eastern front. In the early hours of the morning, Immerwahr walked into the garden with Haber’s army pistol and shot herself in the chest. Haber of course did not let this inconvenience him, and left as planned the next morning without even making any funeral arrangements.

Support systems make a difference. It's critical that everyone within science feels supported, especially underrepresented folks that face additional pressures. To read more about Curie and Immerwahr, check out the Australian Science article here.

Hey Science? Respect Matters #StandingWithDNLee

Update #1 10/14/13: Biology online has apologized and fired the mysterious Ofek.  And Scientific American has released an official explanation which is also B.S.

Underrepresented minorities within the scientific community, such as African Americans and/or women, often bear a burden of perceived illegtimacy within science.  My life is littered with remarks of how I could possibly be a successful scientist when I came from a inner city background. Our passion for what we do drives us to push on despite a general culture that makes us feel like we don't belong in an area that we love.

Danielle Lee of Scientific American's The Urban Scientist blog is an amazing scientist and blogger who was unfortunately the victim of terrible remarks. I'd like to share her words with you.  Please tweet her (@DNLee5) some words of encouragement with the hashtag #StandingWithDNLee.

Ofek from Biology-Online.org, you've official been called out. We won't stand for your ilk. Disrespect is unacceptable. 

DNLee's blog post is below, reprinted in its entirety with her permission.

Transient

wachemshe hao hao kwangu mtapoa

I got this wrap cloth from Tanzania. It’s a khanga. It was the first khanga I purchased while I was in Africa for my nearly 3 month stay for field research last year. Everyone giggled when they saw me wear it and then gave a nod to suggest, “Well, okay”. I later learned that it translates to “Give trouble to others, but not me”. I laughed, thinking how appropriate it was. I was never a trouble-starter as a kid and I’m no fan of drama, but I always took this 21st century ghetto proverb most seriously:

Don’t start none. Won’t be none.

For those not familiar with inner city anthropology – it is simply a variation of the Golden Rule. Be nice and respectful to me and I will do the same. Everyone doesn’t live by the Golden Rule it seems. (Click to embiggen.)

Transient
Transient
Transient

The Blog editor of Biology-Online dot org asked me if I would like to blog for them. I asked the conditions. He explained. I said no. He then called me out of my name.

My initial reaction was not civil, I can assure you. I’m far from rah-rah, but the inner South Memphis in me was spoiling for a fight after this unprovoked insult. I felt like Hollywood Cole, pulling my A-line T-shirt off over my head, walking wide leg from corner to corner yelling, “Aww hell nawl!” In my gut I felt so passionately:”Ofek, don’t let me catch you on these streets, homie!”

This is my official response:

It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand. What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious me that I was supposed to be honored by the request..

Transient

After all, Dr. Important Person does it for free so what’s my problem? Listen, I ain’t him and he ain’t me. Folks have reasons – finances, time, energy, aligned missions, whatever – for doing or not doing things. Seriously, all anger aside…this rationalization of working for free and you’ll get exposure is wrong-headed.This is work. I am a professional. Professionals get paid. End of story. Even if I decide to do it pro bono (because I support your mission or I know you, whatevs) – it is still worth something. I’m simply choosing to waive that fee. But the fact is told ol’ boy No; and he got all up in his feelings. So, go sit on a soft internet cushion, Ofek, ’cause you are obviously all butt-hurt over my rejection. And take heed of the advice on my khanga.

Transient

You don’t want none of this

Thanks to everyone who helped me focus my righteous anger on these less-celebrated equines. I appreciate your support, words of encouragement, and offers to ride down on his *$$.: 

 

Rainbows, Butts, and Science with The Stepsisters

I was a guest on The Stepsisters last night.  The StepSisters is a collaborative blog by Rae of , Shai of Eva of , and Tanisha of  (shown below).

cdbd539dfce572bfbdb51b2b13e7c713.jpeg

We talked about my Black Weblog Awards nomination (vote here!) , the awesomeness of science, and rainbows coming out of peoples's butts. Check it out!

 

Other guests on the show include Erika from Your Chic is Showing, Taya Dunn Johnson from MrsTDJ.com, and Fleur & Elphie from Witches Brew.  Check out the full video below!