Different: Stories about standing out in a crowd — The Story Collider

Story Collider is my favourite science story-place.

Story Collider teaches scientists to tell personal stories and perform them: live. The stories have struck a cord with me so often that I have to pass on the gift. Enjoy these two stories, and go back to story collider and listen to the podcasts. And…

Please check out your city; maybe, there is a story collider live show near you.

Growing up, Amanda Gorman is determined to eliminate her speech impediment, and as an aspiring scientist brought up in a family of artists, Elisa Schaum feels like a black sheep.

Source: Different: Stories about standing out in a crowd — The Story Collider

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Can ‘agritecture’ make cities self-sufficient? – in pictures | Cities | The Guardian

Ideas for agriculture in the city. Diversifying the food ways like this will build community and resilience as well as providing food.

Have a great day.

Roca London Gallery’s latest exhibition explores real-life projects and products helping city buildings grow food and reuse waste

Source: Can ‘agritecture’ make cities self-sufficient? – in pictures | Cities | The Guardian

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Book Review: “The Creative Spark: How imagination made humans exceptional.” Agustin Fuentes. 2018

Book Review: “The Creative Spark: How imagination made humans exceptional.” Agustin Fuentes. 2018

We hear regularly that humans are successful because we compete. Agustin Fuentes disagrees. In his view, humans are successful because we are creative and cooperative.

In The Creative Spark, Agustin Fuentes, an award winning author and scientist, tells the story of our ancestor’s path across the 300,000 years of genus Homo, and further back to the beginning, over two million years ago. The wonderful feature of this book is that the author develops that story into themes: food, war, sex, art, science, religion, and develops his insight into how these began deep in our evolutionary past.

There are two chapters I think are of particular interest to readers of this blog.
In his chapter Creative Sex, Agustin Fuentes concludes there is little in our evolutionary past to justify gender discrimination (In this, he reaches the same conclusion as Angela Saini author of the book Inferior, https://sciblogs.co.nz/scibooks/2017/12/24/book-review-inferior-how-science-got-women-wrong/). And, in his chapter Scientific Architecture he answers a question I have pondered. Why did science arise about 300 years ago in enlightenment Europe? Why not earlier? What was so special about that time?

Creative Sex. We are told that the central unit of our societies is the family; specifically, one male, one female and children. Agustin has this to say, “There is almost no evidence for the nuclear family as a core residence and social unit in the archeological record until very, very recently.”

What happened is much more creative and cooperative, “We know that communal parenting (my emphasis) had to begin early on in the evolution of genus Homo. Otherwise these helpless, increasingly large-brined infants would not have survived. So the image of early Homo mums all by themselves trying to land that one ideal male is not accurate. We also have good evidence that from early on, sharing of food, predator defense, tool making, and other key aspects of life were central to the success of our genus. Otherwise those fangless, clawless, small, and pretty unthreatening little hominids would not have persisted and become us.”

And about tool making, those pictures in museums and books showing male hominids making the tools. What does the evidence show?

“There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that tool-making for nearly the entire 2-million-year history of our genus was gender based. None. Every bit of information we have about the tools, how they were made and used, suggests that there is no sex or gender pattern at all. The modern gender assumptions about men and tools and men and hunting are really, really recent.”

And, what about art, those cave hand-prints? If you are like me, you think male. We were wrong. “The archeologist Dean Snow looked at thirty-two of these hand images from eight different cave sites… Twenty-four of the thirty-two were female. Seventy-five percent of the hand stencils were done by females, and five of the eight male hands appeared to be those of teenage boys. Women and children were doing most of the hand stencils, at least in parts of Europe between about 35,000 and 15,000 years ago.”

And on it goes; evidenced based, fascinating stories, shifting misconceptions. In our evolutionary history, there is no evidence supporting gender based stereotypes. Until recent history, men and women worked together as equals. Science tells us this.

Scientific Architecture. The Creative Spark answers the questions that I asked above. Why did science arise about 300 years ago in enlightenment Europe? Agustin Fuentes’ answer is that the basic, try it and see methodology that underpins science is an early part of the Homo toolkit. He concludes that the apprenticeship approach to science dates back to the very beginning, over two million years ago. “The earliest evidence for something like science takes us back to the start of our genus and the early stone tools. Take the context for Oldowan tool creations, for example. Early members of the genus Homo grew up in a group that had some very simple stone tools, and they knew the basic strategy of using one stone to alter the shape of another such that it took on capacities for use…”

The “group” knew how to make simple stone tools. Youngsters learned from the elders. We see that today in chimpanzees; early Homo was the same. The question, “What works?” And inter-generational learning marks the beginning of science. Ask, “What works?” And experiment, try variations and continue with… what works. The beginning of science is part of the fundamental creativity of Homo sapiens. We are creative and cooperative.

The key point of Agustin Fuentes’, “The Creative Spark” is that we are successful because we are creative and because we cooperate.

I encourage you to read this book.

A final quote from the author,
“Our ability to dream things up and make them happen is what makes us distinctive.”

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(85) Curiosity Is Your Super Power | Spencer Harrison & Jon Cohen | TEDxLosGatos – YouTube

This week I have been searching Harvard Business Magazine for ideas to provoke my students. Typically they are not curious. this may help them understand how important curiosity is.

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BOLERO Ravel レーベルボレロ Orquesta Joven de la Sinfónica de Galicia ガリシア D: Vicente Alberola. Dvořák nº 8 – YouTube

Another beautiful cooperative endeavor.

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The Ultimate Women in Science Reading List: 150 Essential Titles!

Source: The Ultimate Women in Science Reading List: 150 Essential Titles!

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(79) Hildegard von Bingen – Hortus Deliciarum – YouTube

This is a wonderful piece of music: Relaxing, interesting and calm. Humans at our cooperative best.

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(73) Beethoven Silence – YouTube

A beautiful piece of music. Quite different from my experience with Beethoven. Please, enjoy the holidays.

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Science Writing: European Union votes to keep Glyphosate.

This is the second piece of writing for the science writing course. I used the Nature article and information from Science Media center as my sources.

European Union votes to keep Glyphosate: Weed control tool at risk.

The European Union has voted to extend the use of glyphosate for a further five years in the face of broad public controversy about the herbicide’s safety. Glyphosate the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup is the most heavily used modern herbicide thought essential for high yield agriculture. In response to this ruling, Professor Ian Crute, of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board said, “For more than 40 years, glyphosate has enabled environmentally-beneficial tillage practices in arable agriculture globally through highly effective control of damaging perennial weeds. Although the original request was to give a license for the chemical’s use for ten years, this decision removes a significant threat to the competitiveness of European farmers who can now breathe a sigh of relief.”

This ruling is controversial. Although the European Food and the European Chemicals Agency, have concluded there is little evidence of danger from glyphosate. In March 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization Safety Authority, reported that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic in people” and that there is “convincing evidence” that cancer is caused, in experimental animals, following exposure to the chemical.

A European Citizens’’ Initiative petition to ban the use of glyphosate collected more than 1.3 million signatures and the French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to respond by committing to ban Roundup in France.

Grassroots campaigns and politically driven statements, such as these, are building a sense of fear, uncertainty and doubt for the public around the use of glyphosate. This is deeply concerning farmers who stand to lose a valuable tool in weed control.
On the meantime, the Glyphosate Task Force, which represents 22 glyphosate manufacturers in the EU, complained that the vote “categorically ignored scientific advice (and was) mainly influenced by public opinion and driven by politics”.

One important study large study showing no link between glyphosate and cancer in humans was not included in the IARC report because, at the time, it had not yet been published. That study, which tracked the health of tens of thousands of farmers, agricultural workers and their families in Iowa and North Carolina starting in the 1990s, was published earlier this month.

Typical of scientist’s views on the decision is Dr. Christopher Connolly, Reader in Neurobiology at the University of Dundee who stated that “The evidence on the risk to human health from glyphosate is highly controversial, making it difficult for politicians to make a sound science-based decision. We must make the next five years count, so that an evidence-based decision may be made at the end of this period. What is needed urgently is a completely unbiased review of the evidence against glyphosate, bearing in mind the level of exposure. Such evidence must come from a reputable source such as the International Unions of Pharmacologists and Toxicology (IUPHAR).”

In any case, the decision by the EU represents a five-year window for scientists to address the fears the public have.

For now, European farmers can continue using glyphosate.



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Science Writing: This man studies stardust.

I have begun a Science Writing MOOC from the University of Leeds. This is one early assignment.

This man studies stardust.

I’m talking to Professor John Plane who studies cosmic dust.

That’s the fine dust from meteorites that falls down on us, everyday. This dust affects communications fertilizes oceans and can cool climate. We can collect the dust, it’s a science experiment, find a rain spout with sediment, collect the dust, use a magnet to separate the metallic pieces, study under a microscope. That’s cosmic dust.

Professor Plane has developed a new instrument to help study this dust and answer questions, how it impacts Earth and everything.  Called the Meteoric Ablation Simulator (MASI) it assesses how the different elements vaporize as the meteorites fall through the atmosphere.

Up to now, the theory of vaporization as meteorites fall has not been experimentally calibrated. Now it can be. David Banes, who works with Plane explained, “Only relatively recent advances in computing hardware and software have allowed us to address the precise timing and substantial computational requirements needed for MASI. During a particle entry simulation that lasts about 12 seconds, we want to take 6,000 measurements while we are …  flash-heating the particle with real-time feedback.”

Interesting as this is, it is leading to better understanding of the atmosphere, meteor fall and; of all things, better jet and rocket engines.


(Photo is a stock image)

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