Category Archives: Follies of the Human Condition

Science for the People: Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’Roll

sftp516M227ZEyL._SL250_This week we’re looking at the science – and surprising sophistication – of the instincts we serve in the pursuit of pleasure. We’re joined by science writer and journalist Zoe Cormier to talk about her book Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll: The Science of Hedonism and the Hedonism of Science.  We’ll also indulge our passion for nerdy gift giving with Simon Saval, co-founder of GeekWrapped.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Cinema Veritas

On the Pop My Culture podcast, actor Josh McDermitt described his first audition scene for the role of Eugene on The Walking Dead.

…I was taking to a girl. We were both backstage about to give this big presentation in front of, like, the world’s top scientists about some, you know, medical breakthrough we just had; and I’m backstage talking with her and I’m, like, berating her and, like, telling her how stupid she is, and then, and then, I try to sleep with her…

The scene, although fiction, rings very true, because this scene happens – not always in such a confined time frame, with those particular details, or with that intensity – but the aggression, denigration, and sexual objectification of women in science is ever present.

The focus of the description is on how the abuse of the female character illustrates flaws in the male character, because the description of the scene exists to illustrate the process of auditioning for a specific character. In real life, however, should we be more concerned with the character of the jerk or the life experience of those who have such behavior directed at them? As Janet Stemwedel notes in her column in Forbes on Tim Hunt’s controversial comments:

What if, when asked to say a few words to the Korean women scientists and the science journalists at the luncheon, he had recognized the audience he was speaking to was likely to have had quite different experiences in science than he had?

Demographics

In his interview with Ian McKellen on the WTF Podcast, Marc Maron said one the smartest things I’ve heard about modern niche marketing:

I don’t have a demographic. I have a disposition.

You should listen to the rest of the interview too.

Science for the People: Human Research Ethics

sftpThis week Science for the People is learning about the regulatory frameworks that try to balance scientific progress with the safety of research subjects. We’ll speak to Holly Fernandez Lynch and I. Glenn Cohen of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School about their book Human Subjects Research Regulation: Perspectives on the Future. We also speak to health journalist and editor Hilda Bastian about research, journalism, ethics and “The Chocolate Hoax“.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

The Proto-Trolling of Charles Babbage

No one, not even his closest friends, would deny that Charles Babbage was a first rate pedant. In 1842, Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote a poem entitled “The Vision of Sin”, which included the following verse:

Fill the cup, and fill the can:
Have a rouse before the morn:
Every moment dies a man,
Every moment one is born.

Good stuff that. I feel all inspired to fill life up with joy, because it is fleeting and meaningless. The “carpe-est” of “diems”, if you will*. I am so moved that the editor in me is not even bothered in the slightest** about the unorthodox punctuation choices.

Charles Babbage is a better pedant than I. He wrote a letter to the poet:

In your otherwise beautiful poem, one verse reads, “Every minute dies a man, Every minute one is born”; I need hardly point out to you that this calculation would tend ot keep the sum total of the world’s population in a state of perpetual equipoise, whereas it is a well-known fact that the said sum totatl is constantly on the increase. I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in the next edition of your excellent poem the erroneous calculation to which I refer should be corrected as follows: “Every moment*** dies a man, And one and a sixteenth is born.”

Babbage trolled Tennyson. Babbage trolled Tennyson hard.

*Please don’t.

**Botheration is stastically indistinguishable from “not bothered in the slightest”, primarily due to large sample variance.

***Apparently, the original version used “minute” which Tennyson later changed to “moment”.

SOURCE: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage by Sydney Padua , which you go and buy now. In fact, I ‘ve already judged you more than a little if you have already bought the book, read it, and been completely familiar with this story, because you read the end notes like a true scholar.