Friday, June 20, 2014
Stephanie Kwolek died two days ago at the age of ninety. She was the inventor of Kevlar and the fourth woman to be added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Added later: More about her in this NYT article which also mentions the lack of promotions etc.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Short posts, because I didn't get enough sleep for long posts. Here they are:
Straw-feminism on Twitter: Anti-feminist trolls pretending to be feminists create hashtags such as these last week:
Anonymous image board 4chan has a section called /pol/. Sometime around Thursday or Friday of last week, users on /pol/ decided to try and get the hashtag #EndFathersDay trending on Twitter. Users at the time compared it to similar fake activism tags like #WhitesCantBeRaped, which, as a quick search on Twitter reveals, appears to have been a failed prank attempted last week.More about this form of trolling here. I have no idea what motivate these particular examples of trolling, though I'm pretty sure that misogynists would participate eagerly. Others might just like to break things or stir the pot because pranks make them feel powerful.
Speaking of trolls, the founder of American Apparel, Dov Charney, is the reason behind the porn approach the firm uses in advertising of women's clothes. I've wondered about those ads, because the intended buyers are women. Are women to be self-sexual? Aroused by what Dov is aroused by? Who knows.
In Japan, something a bit sexist happened in politics. That's not uncommon in several countries, by the way, the United Kingdom being famous for sexist gestures in the House of Commons when female members give speeches. Men describe boob shapes in air and so on.
What's interesting about the UK use of political aggression is that it's not about what is being said but about who is saying it, and the desired results are probably silent or (even better!) absent women in the corridors of power. It's that generalizing aspect of the aggression which makes it something to write about.
Finally, there are rumors about possible trouble for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Those who have read me before know that I see him as a Ringwraith from Tolkien's Lord of the Ring, obeying blindly the commands of a central conservative think tank. Some background for the case can be found here, and the most recent take here. This is a general article about the history of Walker's climb to power and how it relates to race.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Today's Research Granola: On Beefy Facial Features, Women's Odds of Becoming Principal Investigators in STEM Fields Etc.
1. Here's a fun study summary for you about the reason why our male ancestors had such very strong jaws that nobody ever would have wanted to hit them in the jaw while, say, boxing:
A new theory suggests that our male ancestors evolved beefy facial features as a defence against fist fights.Don't worry about that seeming illogicality of both arguing that beefy facial features evolved as a defense against fist fights AND that the bones most commonly broken in human punch-ups are those same strengthened ones. This is because the argument is not about today's humans but about early hominins. Human males today no longer have that "protective buttressing," at least to the same extent. According to the study authors, this is because it's no longer needed, probably because fist fights are something from ancient history.
The bones most commonly broken in human punch-ups also gained the most strength in early "hominin" evolution.
They are also the bones that show most divergence between males and females.
I have nothing against their hypothesis, except that it's impossible to test. For example, we have no way of knowing if ancient hominins engaged in fist fights or if they fought by using some other tools. But I really wonder about this argument:
Monday, June 16, 2014
And not so deep ones.
First, if a mosquito commits suicide in my cold coffee by this computer and I drink the coffee (because I like cold coffee but not ice coffee so I let it go cold), am I no longer a vegetarian? How can I atone? --- Asking theoretically, of course.
Second, what can we do about tribalism? The soccer games a lot of you are watching are about tribalism, the US gundamentalist ammosexual movement* is about tribalism, what is happening in the death fields of the Middle East is also largely about tribalism. About who is in "our" group and who is not.
Tribalism in sports is much preferable to tribalism in the killing fields, naturally. The UN should encourage it. Indeed, we should bring back gladiator fights**, but only between the heads of the states and runners for those posts.
As an alternative to wars, that is. And yes, I know it wouldn't work***, but the idea is a good one in theory. We could allow modern weapons to make the fights equal for people of different sizes, ages and genders. The outcome could only be protested as a prelude to a second match, between, say, the seconds-in-command. The fight would never leak down to the general populations.
Third, window-washing. This is a deep thought topic only because I have been doing it. Imagine nearly hundred-year old windows, with that up-and-down guillotine movement. Imagine having to wash them on the outside from a long distance from the ground, dangling half outside.
Imagine an intrepid goddess armed with a mallet and chisels (for opening recalcitrant antique windows), bottles of window-washing liquid and rags, part of her clinging to the frame of the house, her mouth holding the rags (for lack of more arms (one is needed to hold on to the house for dear life) and a prehensile tail). Imagine how all that looks and how it feels when the top frame decides to drop on the neck of the said goddess.
Well, I won, this last weekend. But the victory is always temporary, as it may be in politics, too. And that should bring you an odd kind of optimism when things are going very badly on the international front.
*These terms refer to second amendment fanatics. I don't know who invented them but they are pretty clever slurs.
**Like John McCain in one corner, armed with hammers, John Kerry in the other corner, armed with French after-shave. To make an example from the past. So to say.
***It wouldn't work, because the minute we invented this scheme all countries would pick someone very brawny and violent and without relatives as the nominal head of the state. Real strings of power would be held by the Usual Suspects.