“Since her death in 1979, the woman who discovered what the universe is made of has not so much as received a memorial plaque. Her newspaper obituaries do not mention her greatest discovery. […] Every high school student knows that Isaac Newton discovered gravity, that Charles Darwin discovered evolution, and that Albert Einstein discovered the relativity of time. But when it comes to the composition of our universe, the textbooks simply say that the most abundant atom in the universe is hydrogen. And no one ever wonders how we know.”—Jeremy Knowles, discussing the complete lack of recognition Cecilia Payne gets, even today, for her revolutionary discovery. (via alliterate)
“The question of why some humans are left-handed — including such notable specimens as Plato, Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, Debbie Millman, Stephen Jay Gould, Noam Chomsky, and Albert Einstein — has perplexed scientists for centuries. For Southpaws themselves — the affectionate term for lefties — this biological peculiarity has been everything from a source of stigma to a point of pride. But at the heart of it remains an evolutionary mystery…”—The evolutionary mystery of handedness and what it reveals about how the brain works (via explore-blog)
Grit is the disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance. And I want to emphasize the stamina quality of grit. Grit is sticking with things over the long term and then working very hard at it.
Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
“The incident is particularly unsettling for two reasons: At its root is a testament to what a cruel and indiscriminate predator depression is, capable of consuming even humanity’s greatest minds, yet the uncompassionate response illustrates just how poorly we understand the condition. Above all, however, embedded in the media’s treatment of Virginia’s suicide is a grotesque reminder that the only thing more morally repugnant than passing judgment on another human being’s private struggle and inner world, than choosing self-righteousness over compassionate understanding, is doing so publicly, and in the commercial media. What a spectacular failing of the awareness that it’s far more rewarding to understand than to be right.”—March 28, 1941: Virginia Woolf’s suicide letter and its cruel misinterpretation in the media (via explore-blog)
Disabled characters are written into stories for one reason: the disability. Do most people actually believe real disabled people spend our days obsessing about being cured? Or rhapsodizing about killing ourselves? Here is the truth: Disabled people barely ever even think about our disabilities. When we do think about them, it’s usually because we are dealing with an oppressive, systemic problem, such as employment discrimination. Can’t there ever be a disabled character in a book or film just because? Where the topic doesn’t ever come up? All sorts of interesting stories can be written about a disabled character, without the disability ever being mentioned. You know, just like real people.
The vast majority of writers who have used disabled characters in their work are not people with disabilities themselves. Because disabled people have been peripheral for centuries, we’ve been shut out of the artistic process since the beginning. As a result, the disabled characters we’re presented with usually fit one or more of the following stereotypes: Victim, Villain, Inspiration, Monster. And the disabled character’s storyline is generally resolved in one of a few ways: Cure, Death, Institutionalization.
I know of a disabled woman who, in a writing class, wrote a disabled character into her story. The rest of the class spent all day trying to determine what her character’s disability “symbolized”, and refused to believe her when she said the character just had a disability, she wasn’t there for some grand purpose.
Hello. Since you're the only science tumblr I follow I thought I would ask you this question. If an interracial couple were to marry, and have children, and their interracial children had interracial children, and so on, how many generations would it take before either the maternal or paternal ethnicity would be completely eliminated? (i.e. if it was a black and white couple and their mixed child married an asian, and their mixed child married an hispanic, and so on.)
Hi there! Thanks for your question. Unforch, this question isn’t really answerable.
Ethnicity and race are social constructs, not useful genetic traits that we can (or should) use to differentiate people. Ethnicity and race can’t “dilute” out (in a genetic sense), because you can’t point to a genome and say “that’s the Hispanic gene” or “There’s the sequence that makes you Asian.” Yeah, we can point to genes that influence skin color or facial features, but that’s not race. It’s biology.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t track genetic differences based on geography and its associated populations, though. We can, and we do. For instance, if we compared the genome sequences of indigenous North, Central and South American populations to, say, Asian and European genome sequences, we would see that the original Americans are more closely related to Asian populations. This matches up to geological studies that suggest that there once existed a Siberian land bridge, and allows us to make hypotheses about human migration patterns across the Earth (not all of those migrations have been voluntary, mind you).
We can, and have, done the same analysis by comparing modern and ancient samples from place X with modern and ancient African DNA, which is how we know that we the first members of our species left Eastern Africa about 70,000 years ago to settle the four corners of the Earth (which has no actual corners, of course).
So it only takes a few dozen generations before analysis of our crossed-over, interbred nuclear genomes gets so messy that we’re tracing complex statistics instead of neat and tidy family trees. So to make it easier, instead of nuclear genomes, we often compare the tiny, circular genomes that persist within our mitochondria.
You’ll recall from biology class (you were paying attention, right?!) that our mitochondria used to be free-living bacteria, complete with circular, prokaryotic genomes. While most of that ancient genome has disappeared (or migrated to our own nuclear genome), our cellular energy factories still hold a circle of DNA that gets passed down to baby mitochondria when a cell divides and when a mommy and daddy lie down (or stand up, or whatever page of the Kama Sutra they’re on) and do Grown Up Stuff™. What’s weird is that (probably because eggs are big and sperm are small) every one of your mitochondria came from your mom, not your dad.
By comparing mitochondrial genomes from the past with mitochondrial genomes from around the world today, we are fairly certain that one single female of the Homo sapiens crew, living in Africa about 100,000-200,000 years ago, is the ancestor of every living human being today. We call her Mitochondrial Eve. She wasn’t the only human female alive then, and she wasn’t the only human with mitochondria. She’s just the one whose kids ended up covering the Earth.
Yeah, people whose recent ancestors come from South Asia look different from people whose recent ancestors come from Sweden. But that’s just human genetic variation, the same way that I have blonde hair and my friends Jamie and Eric are orange-haired gingers.
People have grouped together (and often excluded other groups) throughout history for a variety of reasons, some of them good, and many of them unthinkably horrible. Because of this, our ancestors often bred with those close to them in geography as well as culture, reinforcing bits of human genetic variation in traits like skin color and facial features. We invented “race”. Evolution just made different kinds of people.
All of this is a long way of saying that while your original question doesn’t have an answer, studying genetic differences based on geography and culture is still important to science. Not because it shows us how we are different, but because it highlights our human connections, and reminds us of our shared experience and common origin in a world that could always use a bit more of that kind of thinking.
For fat women, being stylish isn’t a luxury. It’s often a necessity to get hired, to get access to healthcare, to get treated like a human being.
Fat women have all kinds of narratives about sloppiness, laziness, dirtiness to overcome. Sometimes heels are a crucial part of looking “put together” in a way that sufficiently convinces people that we care about ourselves, that manages to counteract pervasive cultural narratives that fat people don’t care about ourselves. That we have “let ourselves go.”
Being “put together” is part of the way many of us convey to a judgmental world that we are worth caring about.
I get treated completely differently at a $20 hair salon if I’m dressed up or dressed down. Two totally different experiences. I get treated differently at the doctor’s office, and at the emergency room. I can’t go to the ER in sweatpants, because I’ll get shittier treatment. In an emergency, I have to worry if I am dressed up enough to prove that I deserve respect and care.
Are there poc from history that weren't slaves or servents? ( I'm sure there were, but were there any well known ones?)
I get why you asked this question, and I get why you framed it the way you have. But I want to take this moment to break down what you’re really asking, here. Let’s take your question on a world tour.
Education in the U.S. (and some other places, too), is incredibly Eurocentric, and most people don’t even know the histories of places other than Europe pre-1500s, and America post-1500s.
This leads to the following assumptions that 1. all history occurred in Europe; 2. Europe was always dominant as a “continent” over all other continents; 3. That people we consider white are a world majority.
Here’s a breakdown of the would population by continent. We know that they are far from racially homogenous, but a re-framing is definitely in order.
Just about 75% of the world’s population lives in Africa and Asia. Notice that’s 60.3% in Asia alone.
As for relative SIZE of continents, a lot of people have really confused ideas about relative sized of continents in relation to each other. A graphic designed by Kai Krause went viral in some parts of the internet a while back, but in case you missed it, here it is:
Here’s the whole thing, which has the original data input the graphic was made from, as well as this image of Europe superimposed on Africa, true to proportion:
Okay, we’ve discussed the size and proportion of land masses that humans occupy, and relative populousness of those land masses. But what about race? Well, in a lot of ways, the way we construct race is by skin color; dark or light. Here’s a (admittedly super generalizing) map of the world’s human population by approximate skin color. But it helps some people to see it [via Encyclopedia Brittanica]:
Now, the “lightest skin” areas don’t necessarily reflect “white people” as we would think of it. Many East Asians and Indigenous people in the north (Inuit, Saami), have light skin.
There is no way to make an accurate estimate of what percentage of the world’s population now are what race because many, many nations do not take a census that records race. Trying to determine racial demographics from past eras, especially in Medieval or Ancient times when concepts like “white people” did. not. exist. is basically impossible, for all intents and purposes. Some people say that a third of the entire world’s population lived in Europe during say, the Middle Ages…as we can see that doesn’t necessarily mean “white people”. Moreover, what are we basing that on? Do they take Chinese documents into account? What about the documents from the library of Timbuktu, which as far as I know are still being explored, cataloged, and translated?
Let’s revisit the question. "Are there poc from history that weren’t slaves or serv[a]nts?"
Now, let’s flip the question: For the entirety of human history, was the majority of the world’s population subject to a minority of the world’s population?
The answer is, of course, no. The expectation that there would be a finite list of exceptions to enslavement and servitude on the part of ALL people of color for the ENTIRETY of human history is based on our current views of the world, based on what we have been taught, and HOW we have been taught it.
These expectations are shaped by the media we consume and create.
These expectations are created by an education curricula for history that begins in Europe, a Europe that is supposedly isolated geographically and culturally, despite the fact that it isn’t even separated by water from Asia.
American history begins with “first contact” or “discovery”, with almost no mention of the political or social history of the continent before being “discovered”. The terminology used in most books and documentaries is definitively Eurocentric: “We” discovered “The Other”. We divide time and space into “The Old World” and “The New World.” WHO, exactly, was this “world” NEW to?
What I would *love* to see is an analysis of how many classes that use books that DO cover non-European history, SKIP those histories because “there’s no time”. I am in a rather unique position to witness this, and have come to believe that this is a very common practice in American/U.S. classrooms. Because learning the same five things about the Revolutionary War and World War 2 for six years in a row takes precedence over learning even the most basic facts about anything regarding World History. WHY do we learn the same things over and over? WHY do we know what we know? WHO wrote it down and said this is not just truth, but The Truth?
I’m not asking these questions because I know the answers…I don’t, really. I’m asking them because I want this questioning habit to spread as far as it can. This blog covers only the teeniest, tiniest portion of human history! The focus is incredibly narrow, because I am only one person. But look how much can be amassed in terms of knowledge, in terms of forming new questions, just by ONE person! A whole generation of people are becoming adults right now, and they should be full of questions. Who is going to write the history for the generation after this one? Can you do better?
“Don’t worry about being original, she said dismissively. Yes, everything’s been written, but also, the thing you want to write, before you wrote it, was impossible to write. Otherwise it would already exist. You writing it makes it possible.”—
One of the professors in my department just mentioned he got an email from JPER (Journal of Planning Education and Research) saying they now consider anything posted online as "previous publication," meaning they won't publish any articles that may have appeared, e.g., on someone's blog. This is exactly what you were talking about--gatekeeping of academic writing, keeping the circle small and privileged. It's a disgrace. Thank you for fighting the good fight here for all of us!!
I think it’s not really something your average person is going to know about at all, but it’s basically
stop/discourage things like this blog from happening.
It’s a circling of the wagons, so they can point to a project like this, which 1. is outside their purview for very good reasons and 2. wouldn’t get funding anyway because it’s “too confrontational”.
It’s so they can point to independent projects published online and say “oh, they’re just some wingnut working outside respectable institutions of learning”.
It’s making sure we never get payment or recognition for this kind of work. On the one hand, it might have the effect of stemming some of the rampant plagiarism that goes on, but what do you want to bet that this rule is going to get bent for people who fall IN the sacred circle of publishing within academic journals and maybe happened to lift their entire thesis from “some blog”? And that somehow this new rule will only affect people who’ve previously blogged academic journal-level material online because they were repudiated from publishing it there first? Because that’s already pretty much the established pattern.
That’s the funny thing about structural and institutional disenfranchisement: it’s this amazing coincidence that it seems to always only work in one direction; benefiting those who already have power and recognition, and further disenfranchising those who have neither.