thegrandnarrative + science   51

The effect of porn on male fertility | ScienceBlogs
Once again, I bravely plunge into the fascinating world of kinky sex research in humans. This time, we learn something incredibly useful. Gentleman, would you like to know how to improve the potency of your semen? Do you need a good excuse to give your significant other when she catches you browsing porn sites? Do you want another excuse to sneer at those pompous business types who flaunt their fancy cell phones? Here's the study for you.

There's a vested interest in bettering male sperm quality at fertility clinics, obviously. There are multiple ways to measure the potency of a semen sample: one is to look at sperm density, which is typically in the neighborhood of 70 million sperm per millileter. Another is to look at sperm quality, measured as the percentage of functional, motile sperm in a sample. These are routine assessments that the professionals at fertility clinics make on a regular basis, and are easily quantified.

Now for a little theory: if males can regulate their sperm quality (as we'll see, we apparently can), then the situations in which we ought to be putting a little extra oomph into the boys is when there is a possibility of competition: if we're concerned that someone else might be introducing sperm into our favorite vagina, we ought to make a special effort to put our best wigglers in the race.

How can this be tested? With the judicious use of pornography. A group of young heterosexual men were asked to masturbate into a cup, while provided with a randomly selected set of graphic images for stimulation. The set to elicit feelings of sexual competition consisted of explicit images of two men with a woman; the less competitive images were of three women. The fellows filled out a little questionnaire that asked miscellaneous details, were handed a cup and some calipers (they also had to measure the size of their testes) and a sealed packet with their porn, and returned a little later with their output.

The results fit the hypothesis. Males who viewed the hardcore shots of other men with a woman produced more sperm (76.64±1.26 x 106/ml vs. 61.35±1.27 x 106/ml), and a higher percentage (52.1±7.3% vs. 49.3±8.0%) were actively motile. The men who thought the photos were more explicit than any they had seen before also had more potent semen than those who thought the images were relatively tame—the effect of novelty was strong.

A few other interesting correlations emerged. Moderate coffee drinking increased the sperm count. On the other hand, men who a carried a mobile phone in a hip pocket or on their belt (but not if they carried it elsewhere) had reduced sperm counts: 65.6±1.26 x 106/ml vs. 75.67±1.30 x 106/ml.

All of these results were statistically significant.

We can learn some important lessons from this.

Ditch the cell phone!
Drink coffee—it makes you more manly.
Don't look at porn too often, since you can habituate.
When you do look at porn, the more explicit, the better.
Here's the awkward one: the more studly guys lounging about in your porn, the more anxious your gonads will be, and the better their production.

Now when your girlfriend or wife finds you at the computer, coffee cup in hand, browsing some hardcore porn site, you can tell her that you are just trying to enhance your virility…and you have the statistics to support it. Of course, she's also going to be able to tell you to stop obsessively scanning through the two hundred porn portals you've got bookmarked—all things in moderation.

Kilgallon SJ, Simmons LW (2005) Image content influences men's semen quality. Biol. Lett. 1:253-255.
sex  science  sperm  spermcount  male-fertility  fertility  pornography 
december 2018 by thegrandnarrative
Scientists must keep fighting fake news, not retreat to their ivory towers | Fiona Fox | Science | The Guardian
I am sorry to see Jenny Rohn penning her last piece for the Guardian’s science blog network (“I was deluded. You can’t beat fake news with science communication”). I have enjoyed her columns and often shared the links. But I cannot agree with her swan song.

Rohn uses her last post to question whether her seven years of blogging has made the slightest difference to public attitudes to science and concludes that it probably hasn’t. Her despair follows a now familiar trope in science: that in our “post-truth” society no one is listening to mild mannered science writers trading in facts and evidence. Instead the masses are in thrall to what Rohn calls the “enemy camp”, the anti-science brigade who lamentably “picked up the pen as well” and use it to peddle dangerous lies.

In our polarised times I question the wisdom of lumping the critics of science together into an “enemy camp”. Opponents of science come in many shapes and sizes as do their motivations and the quality of their arguments. I also wonder whether name calling is the best way of wining them over; Rohn tells us of “fascists, charlatans and propagandists” whose lies are then tweeted by “anti-vaxxers, racists and nutters.”

Mostly what I question is Rohn’s certainty that no one is listening to scientists. As Carl Sagan said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” and Rohn describes herself as a writer who specialises in evidence based communication. So where is the evidence that the public buy lies over the truth in science? And why is this the starting point of so many of the debates I have attended on post-truth and fake news?

I am seeing plenty to reassure me that the public are more discerning. The latest trust ratings showed once again that scientists remain near the top of the list of most trusted professionals with 83% of the public trusting scientists to tell the truth (compared with only 17% who say the same of politicians). Soon after Michael Gove’s infamous charge that the public has had enough of experts, the Institute for Government published a poll showing that 85% of people want politicians to consult professionals and experts when making difficult decisions, and 83% want government to make decisions based on objective evidence.

If you focus on specific issues it’s also hard to see why some are so adamant that everyone is blindly soaking up lies over facts. Other countries have had big problems with vaccination fuelled by the kinds of campaigns Rohn is talking about, but in the UK MMR rates have steadily recovered after our own crisis and in parallel with the growth of anti-vaccination noise on social media. I am not saying there is no problem here; the Science Media Centre exists to counter misleading reporting of science and we are as busy as ever. But I think something more nuanced and complex might be happening than Rohn’s bleak scenario allows for.

Some will no doubt refer me to the research evidence on cognitive bias and a number of widely cited experiments that appear to show that presenting the facts make no difference to those who have made their mind up. Worse still, some studies show that the noble pursuit of debunking facts might even make things worse, the so-called “boomerang effect”. But even here there are some rich discussions taking place with some social scientists now questioning whether the findings have been overstated.

Rohn’s tentative conclusion is that science writers like herself should maybe retreat from the public space and try to change things through “more private and targeted channels”. I really hope she doesn’t. The last two decades has seen a remarkable cultural shift in science with more and more researchers viewing it as part of their role to engage with public concern on issues from GM crops to climate change to over-medicalisation. Time and time again I have seen scientists challenging misinformation on these subjects to good effect.

We are approached every day by journalists seeking the very best experts to comment, and the daily news is awash with scientists speaking from the evidence. Rohn may feel they don’t win every battle, and I would be first to agree. But a world where scientists are absent from the debate would be far worse, and we would all be the poorer for it.

No one said this was going to be easy – and I am open to Rohn’s claim that it might be getting harder, or at least more bruising. But that’s all the more reason for Rohn and her fellow scientists to hang in there. Now would be the very worst time for scientists to return to their ivory towers.

• Fiona Fox is the CEO of the Science Media Centre
fake-news  media  science-communication  science 
september 2018 by thegrandnarrative
Science Has Consistently Underestimated Women Because Scientists Are Sexist - Broadly
Although Darwin is dead, his legacy remains: there's still scientific work being done today that reinforces misogynistic views.

"There's a lot of bad evolutionary psychology out there," Saini says, citing research that variously argues that men are better leaders because of their hunter-gatherer origins, or that women are naturally less promiscuous than men. In reality, the story we get from some evolutionary psychologists is false. Saini uses the example of early human communities in which men and women shared all the tasks equally, with women undertaking as much hunter-gathering as men.

Not all evolutionary psychology is bad, though. "Some courageous women, like [anthropologist and feminist] Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, have really bravely challenged the sexist baggage within the disciple," Saini says.
sexism  science  evolutionary-psychology 
august 2018 by thegrandnarrative
A scientist sat through an entire flat-Earther convention. Here's what he learned
Speakers recently flew in from around (or perhaps, across?) the Earth for a three-day event held in Birmingham: the UK's first ever public Flat Earth Convention.

It was well attended, and wasn't just three days of speeches and YouTube clips (though, granted, there was a lot of this). There was also a lot of team-building, networking, debating, workshops – and scientific experiments.

Yes, flat Earthers do seem to place a lot of emphasis and priority on scientific methods and, in particular, on observable facts.

The weekend in no small part revolved around discussing and debating science, with lots of time spent running, planning, and reporting on the latest set of flat Earth experiments and models.

Indeed, as one presenter noted early on, flat Earthers try to "look for multiple, verifiable evidence" and advised attendees to "always do your own research and accept you might be wrong".

While flat Earthers seem to trust and support scientific methods, what they don't trust is scientists, and the established relationships between "power" and "knowledge".

This relationship between power and knowledge has long been theorised by sociologists. By exploring this relationship, we can begin to understand why there is a swelling resurgence of flat Earthers.

Power and knowledge

Let me begin by stating quickly that I'm not really interested in discussing if Earth if flat or not (for the record, I'm happily a "globe Earther") – and I'm not seeking to mock or denigrate this community.

What's important here is not necessarily whether they believe Earth is flat or not, but instead what their resurgence and public conventions tell us about science and knowledge in the 21st century.

Multiple competing models were suggested throughout the weekend, including "classic" flat Earth, domes, ice walls, diamonds, puddles with multiple worlds inside, and even Earth as the inside of a giant cosmic egg.

The level of discussion however often did not revolve around the models on offer, but on broader issues of attitudes towards existing structures of knowledge, and the institutions that supported and presented these models.

Flat Earthers are not the first group to be skeptical of existing power structures and their tight grasps on knowledge.

This viewpoint is somewhat typified by the work of Michel Foucault, a famous and heavily influential 20th century philosopher who made a career of studying those on the fringes of society to understand what they could tell us about everyday life.

He is well known, amongst many other things, for looking at the close relationship between power and knowledge. He suggested that knowledge is created and used in a way that reinforces the claims to legitimacy of those in power.

At the same time, those in power control what is considered to be correct and incorrect knowledge. According to Foucault, there is therefore an intimate and interlinked relationship between power and knowledge.

At the time Foucault was writing on the topic, the control of power and knowledge had moved away from religious institutions, who previously held a very singular hold over knowledge and morality, and was instead beginning to move towards a network of scientific institutions, media monopolies, legal courts, and bureaucratised governments.

Foucault argued that these institutions work to maintain their claims to legitimacy by controlling knowledge.

Ahead of the curve?

In the 21st century, we are witnessing another important shift in both power and knowledge due to factors that include the increased public platforms afforded by social media.

Knowledge is no longer centrally controlled and – as has been pointed out in the wake of Brexit – the age of the expert may be passing. Now, everybody has the power to create and share content.

When Michael Gove, a leading proponent of Brexit, proclaimed: "I think the people of this country have had enough of experts", it would seem that he, in many ways, meant it.

It is also clear that we're seeing increased polarisation in society, as we continue to drift away from agreed singular narratives and move into camps around shared interests.

Recent PEW research suggests, for example, that 80 percent of voters who backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election – and 81 percent of Trump voters – believe the two sides are unable to agree on basic facts.

Despite early claims, from as far back as HG Well's "world brain" essays in 1936, that a worldwide shared resource of knowledge such as the internet would create peace, harmony and a common interpretation of reality, it appears that quite the opposite has happened.

With the increased voice afforded by social media, knowledge has been increasingly decentralised, and competing narratives have emerged.

This was something of a reoccurring theme throughout the weekend, and was especially apparent when four flat Earthers debated three physics PhD students.

A particular point of contention occurred when one of the physicists pleaded with the audience to avoid trusting YouTube and bloggers. The audience and the panel of flat Earthers took exception to this, noting that "now we've got the internet and mass communication … we're not reliant on what the mainstream are telling us in newspapers, we can decide for ourselves".

It was readily apparent that the flat Earthers were keen to separate knowledge from scientific institutions.

Flat Earthers and populism

At the same time as scientific claims to knowledge and power are being undermined, some power structures are decoupling themselves from scientific knowledge, moving towards a kind of populist politics that are increasingly sceptical of knowledge.

This has, in recent years, manifested itself in extreme ways – through such things as public politicians showing support for Pizzagate or Trump's suggestions that Ted Cruz's father shot JFK.

But this can also be seen in more subtle and insidious form in the way in which Brexit, for example, was campaigned for in terms of gut feelings and emotions rather than expert statistics and predictions.

Science is increasingly facing problems with its ability to communicate ideas publicly, a problem that politicians, and flat Earthers, are able to circumvent with moves towards populism.

Again, this theme occurred throughout the weekend. Flat Earthers were encouraged to trust "poetry, freedom, passion, vividness, creativity, and yearning" over the more clinical regurgitation of established theories and facts.

Attendees were told that "hope changes everything", and warned against blindly trusting what they were told.

This is a narrative echoed by some of the celebrities who have used their power to back flat Earth beliefs, such as the musician B.O.B, who tweeted: "Don't believe what I say, research what I say."

In many ways, a public meeting of flat Earthers is a product and sign of our time; a reflection of our increasing distrust in scientific institutions, and the moves by power-holding institutions towards populism and emotions.

In much the same way that Foucault reflected on what social outcasts could reveal about our social systems, there is a lot flat Earthers can reveal to us about the current changing relationship between power and knowledge.

And judging by the success of this UK event – and the large conventions planned in Canada and America this year – it seems the flat Earth is going to be around for a while yet.
science  gatekeepers  scientists  alternative-facts 
may 2018 by thegrandnarrative
Progress Isn't Natural Humans invented it—and not that long ago.
Why might people in the past have been hesitant to embrace the idea of progress? The main argument against it was that it implies a disrespect of previous generations. As the historian Carl Becker noted in a classic work written in the early 1930s, “a Philosopher could not grasp the modern idea of progress ... until he was willing to abandon ancestor worship, until he analyzed away his inferiority complex toward the past, and realized that his own generation was superior to any yet known.” With the great voyages and the Reformation, Europeans increasingly began to doubt the great classical writings on geography, medicine, astronomy, and physics that had been the main source of wisdom in medieval times. With those doubts came a sense that their own generation knew more and was wiser than those of previous eras.

This was a departure from the beliefs of most societies in the past, which were usually given to some measure of “ancestor worship”—the belief that all wisdom had been revealed to earlier sages and that to learn anything one should peruse their writings and find the answer in their pages. In the Islamic world, wisdom was found in the Koran and the Hadith (which consists of sayings and acts attributed to the prophet Muhammad); in the Jewish world it was the Torah, the Talmud, and the sayings of Chazal; in China, wisdom was contained in Sishu Jizhu, the four books of commentary on Confucius compiled in the 12th century. In late medieval Europe, wisdom was found in a limited number of ancient texts, above all those written by Aristotle.
progess  science  dystopia 
november 2016 by thegrandnarrative
High Rise to the end of the world: a brief history of overpopulation panic
To modern sensibility, some of these tropes now seem prescient, while others appear overwrought; many had temporarily lost popularity by the late 70s. Perhaps the fictional seam was worked out, and some indices gradually altered. The overall global rate of population growth had slowed by the 1980s, and some fashionable theories of the 70s period, such as the idea that a violent demand for lebensraum was a necessary corollary of growing population, started to be questioned.

A comparison Disch made in 334 - that the 70s the west was in the approximate state of decline that the Roman Empire had been in during the eponymous year 334- seems, in retrospect, premature ... although many of the central issues have been resurrected in a teeming 21st century. While they lasted in their early form, the tropes were far reaching; even a populist tea-time favourite like Doctor Who could get in on the act. Colony in Space (1972), written by one of the BBCs great screenwriters, Malcolm Hulke, is set against a backdrop of mankind making a great trek to the stars. The colonists have abandoned the terrestrial for the lure of space for one simple reason: Earth’s cities are choked by insupportable overpopulation.
science  fiction  overpopulation 
april 2016 by thegrandnarrative
How A Group Of Brits Changed The World By Changing Science In The 1970s
The media were interested too. Charlie ran with it, working with the current affairs TV programme World in Action. The problem, however, was the unions. Health and safety tended to be in the legal department, who made their money out of compensation cases, and were not exactly keen to prevent hazards. "I was learning the lessons very fast about information and how it flows, how it doesn't flow, how it gets blocked and who wants what." Others in BSSRS worked on workers' health, notably noise and asbestos. Marianne Craig, living off a grant for a PhD, researched a book on the hazards of office work. Then there was Simon Pickvance. Disenchanted with science, he had quit a Cambridge PhD to retrain as a bricklayer. Supported by the radical science community, trade unions and GPs, Simon developed what became known as the Sheffield Occupational Health Advisory Service. This put audiometers, aesthesiometers, spirometers and other equipment into the hands of union safety reps, unearthing evide
british  science  gatekeepers  information 
february 2015 by thegrandnarrative
How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future- page 2 | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
Conclusion: Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions. Samuel R. Delany, one of the most wide-ranging and masterful writers in the field, sees it as a countermeasure to the future shock that will become more intense with the passing years. “The variety of worlds science fiction accustoms us to, through imagination, is training for thinking about the actual changes—sometimes catastrophic, often confusing—that the real world funnels at us year after year. It helps us avoid feeling quite so gob-smacked.”
sf  science  fiction  science  techonology  writing  dystopia 
february 2015 by thegrandnarrative
You Can See Your Own White Blood Cells Flowing Through Your Eye!
If you look up into the blue sky long enough, and with enough attention, you should be able to see tiny blue-white dots flashing around the sky.The phenomenon was so well-known that it acquired the nickname "blue-sky sprites," but they're actually white blood cells moving through your eye. White blood cells make up a very small percentage of blood — as little as only 1%. Red blood cells floating in plasma are the bulk of blood. In the tiny blood vessels in the eye, we don't see blood in bulk. Cells file through the vessel one at a time. The red blood cells block out light, particularly if the light is blue. White blood cells don't absorb light well, so they let the light shine through. When these blood vessels are strung over the receptor cells in the retina, the red blood cells block out the sun. That's no problem. The eye adjusts so we don't see dark nets across our vision. Because the eye adjusts, the 1% of the time that a white blood cell moves along the blood vessel, it lets th
eyes  science  io9 
october 2014 by thegrandnarrative
Eye Floaters and Seeing Spots in the Eye - AllAboutVision.com
Eye floaters are those tiny spots, specks, flecks and "cobwebs" that drift aimlessly around in your field of vision. While annoying, ordinary eye floaters and spots are very common and usually aren't cause for alarm. Floaters and spots typically appear when tiny pieces of the eye's gel-like vitreous break loose within the inner back portion of the eye. When we are born and throughout our youth, the vitreous has a gel-like consistency. But as we age, the vitreous begins to dissolve and liquefy to create a watery center. Some undissolved gel particles occasionally will float around in the more liquid center of the vitreous. These particles can take on many shapes and sizes to become what we refer to as "floaters." You'll notice that these types of spots and floaters are particularly pronounced when you peer at a bright, clear sky or a white computer screen. But you can't actually see tiny bits of debris floating loose within your eye. Instead, shadows from these floaters are cast on
eyes  vision  science 
october 2014 by thegrandnarrative
Freezing Your Eggs Isn't the Future of Reproduction. Here's What Is.
What Women Really Want They call childbirth "labor," but really the term should be applied to everything that comes after. Despite all evidence to the contrary, few cultures in the world admit that childcare is a job. A demanding, soul-crushing, time-consuming job that women are supposed to do without compensation or support from their workplace. I'm not saying it isn't also a complete joy to see children growing up — there are many rewards to childrearing, just as there are rewards at any job. But without support at work, it's hard to be a great parent and a great software developer at the same time. That's why I think women should be demanding something more than frozen eggs and artificial wombs. We should be demanding that our workplaces provide childcare during working hours. I'm not talking about Google's super-elite, super-expensive on-site preschool bullshit. I'm talking about CHILD CARE FOR EVERY WOMAN AT EVERY COMPANY. Sorry to go caps lock on you, but this solution to the
reproduction  eggs  science  fiction  childcare 
october 2014 by thegrandnarrative
The 10 Types of Fictional Apocalypses (And What They Mean)
The Apocalypse rules pop culture. Half the biggest literary novels these days are apocalyptic, and meanwhile The Walking Dead is a huge hit. Post-apocalyptic stories are what space opera was in the Space Age. But what are they about? Here are 10 types of apocalypses, and what they each signify. Before we get started, a blanket observation — as we've said many times before, pretty much all apocalyptic scenarios are about wish-fulfillment on some level, even as they also explore our deepest fears. We all fantasize about being among the rugged handful of survivors, who immediately become the most special people in the world purely by virtue of still being alive. There's also something alluring about the idea of no longer having to go to work or worry about Twitter drama, and having a simpler life. That said, the wish-fulfillment aspect is pretty much the same in every apocalypse, whereas the fears being explored are somewhat different each time, even if common themes do crop up. With th
dystopia  postapocalyptic  apocalypse  fiction  science  fiction 
october 2014 by thegrandnarrative
You Are Not a Fruit Fly: Why You Should Side-Eye Science Headlines
"Your Baby Looks Like Your Ex—Shocking New Research Shows Previous Partners' Sperm May Lurk Inside You." Catchy headline, right? When you write about science on the Internet, that's really the key. Last week, dozens of media outlets took this "shocking" tactic in blurbing a new study on fruit fly reproduction, the research written up with headlines about lovers and accompanied by photographs of bouncing human babies. I even received an email from a pregnant friend that read, "Shit. Does this mean my kid is going to look like my ex?" I wrote back to her, "Not unless you're a fruit fly." How did we get from Telostylinus angusticollis to the human infant? Start with a scientific study that can be generalized to something people identify with or fear. Then lead with an eminently clickable headline about motherhood and promiscuity, striking fear in the hearts of the sexually active, raising concerns that the skeevy dude they picked up in a bar last year is actually going to haunt them fo
fruit  flies  science  science  reporting  science  in  the  media 
october 2014 by thegrandnarrative
A Star in a Bottle - The New Yorker
ears from now—maybe in a decade, maybe sooner—if all goes according to plan, the most complex machine ever built will be switched on in an Alpine forest in the South of France. The machine, called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, will stand a hundred feet tall, and it will weigh twenty-three thousand tons—more than twice the weight of the Eiffel Tower. At its core, densely packed high-precision equipment will encase a cavernous vacuum chamber, in which a super-hot cloud of heavy hydrogen will rotate faster than the speed of sound, twisting like a strand of DNA as it circulates. The cloud will be scorched by electric current (a surge so forceful that it will make lightning seem like a tiny arc of static electricity), and bombarded by concentrated waves of radiation. Beams of uncharged particles—the energy in them so great it could vaporize a car in seconds—will pour into the chamber, adding tremendous heat. In this way, the circulating hydrogen will become
fusion  science  atomic  physics  tokamak 
september 2014 by thegrandnarrative
William Patterson's Robert Heinlein Biography Is a Hagiography | New Republic
Robert A. Heinlein, Vol 2: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better, by William H. Patterson. The science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein once described himself as “a preacher with no church.” More accurately, he was a preacher with too many churches. Rare among the many intellectual gurus whose fame mushroomed in the 1960s, Heinlein was a beacon for hippies and hawks, libertarians and authoritarians, and many other contending faiths—but rarely at the same time. While America became increasingly liberal, he became increasingly right wing, and it hobbled his once-formidable imagination. His career, as a new biography inadvertently proves, is a case study in the literary perils of political extremism. einlein’s most famous novel, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), was a counter-culture Bible, its message of free love inspiring not just secular polygamous communes but also the Church of All Worlds, a still-flourishing New Age sect incorporated in 1968. Heinl
science  fiction  SF  robert  heinlein  books 
july 2014 by thegrandnarrative
Films that help parents bring science home to their children | Alom Shaha | Science | theguardian.com
My parents didn't teach me anything about science. There were no doctors or engineers in my family, I never visited a science museum, looked through a telescope or played with dinosaur toys. I didn't have any of those cultural experiences that many self-confessed geeks say contributed to their love of science. My childhood was devoid of what some people are now calling "science capital", a concept analogous to cultural capital in that possessing it can promote social mobility beyond one's socioeconomic status. Despite my lack of science capital, my secondary school science teachers were so good that I fell in love with the subject and have gone on to have a rewarding career as a science teacher and communicator. But not every child is as lucky as I was with my teachers, and many people can go through life without ever having the opportunity to engage with science. I'm not one of those people who think all children should be forced to study science until they're 18, but I do believe th
science  science  education  children  teaching  royal  institution 
july 2014 by thegrandnarrative
California at the End of the World
Touring around California, you could be forgiven for thinking you're living in the future, and not just because of the Silicon Valley wizardry that surrounds us all. We also have to thank Hollywood's movie magic, which has turned the state into a backdrop for countless science fiction films presenting futures both terrible and wondrous. It's not just that so many are filmed here—writers and filmmakers have been exploring the future through California sets for decades. In the early days of big-budget sci-fi, New York often embodied the worst fears about society, urban living, and technology: Soylent Green (1972), Escape from New York (1981), and others capitalized on New York's bankrupt and crime-ridden nadir—a genre that Miriam Greenberg refers to as "New York Exploitation." With the city's campaign to reposition itself in the 1990s, Los Angeles became the symbol of urban blight, perfectly demonstrated by John Carpenter's relocation of his Snake Plissken sequel, Escape from L.A. (1996
science  fiction  apocalypse  california 
march 2014 by thegrandnarrative
The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun: Isaac Asimov’s portrayal of radical life extension.
http://io9.com/why-isaac-asimovs-famous-dystopia-is-still-relevant-to-1473735813 Isaac Asimov was the foremost science fiction writer of the second half of the 20th century. He was notoriously prolific, churning out hundreds of books. Late in life, he reflected: “I wanted to write fictional history in which there are no true endings … in which, even when a problem is apparently solved, a new one arises to take its place. To this end, I sacrificed everything else.” Asimov’s style was that of the pulps he came up in. His characters are, by his own admission, cutouts; his prose is not subtle. But he was very good at what he set out to be good at—positing technological solutions to societal problems and then figuring out what new problems these solutions entailed. His laws of robotics, a schema for virtuous automation, were one such exploration. Because he explicitly wrote three laws, they were reified in the canon of science fiction, a process helped along when Will Smith probed their
technology  scifi  asimov  sf  science  fiction  dystopia 
december 2013 by thegrandnarrative
Policy: Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims
Calls for the closer integration of science in political decision-making have been commonplace for decades. However, there are serious problems in the application of science to policy — from energy to health and environment to education. One suggestion to improve matters is to encourage more scientists to get involved in politics. Although laudable, it is unrealistic to expect substantially increased political involvement from scientists. Another proposal is to expand the role of chief scientific advisers1, increasing their number, availability and participation in political processes. Neither approach deals with the core problem of scientific ignorance among many who vote in parliaments. Perhaps we could teach science to politicians? It is an attractive idea, but which busy politician has sufficient time? In practice, policy-makers almost never read scientific papers or books. The research relevant to the topic of the day — for example, mitochondrial replacement, bovine tuberculosis
data  evidence  policy  science  statistics  studies  scientific  studies  review 
november 2013 by thegrandnarrative
The stronger men are, the more importance attached to their self-interests
Poor people might be expected to favour redistribution, and the rich to be against it, regardless of how strong they were. And for women, Dr Petersen and Dr Sznycer found that this was indeed the case. For men, though, opinion did depend on strength...

...Dr Petersen and Dr Sznycer found that, regardless of country of origin or apparent ideology, strong men argued for their self interest: the poor for redistribution, the rich against it. No surprises there. Weaklings, however, were far less inclined to make the case that self-interest suggested they would. Among women, by contrast, strength had no correlation with opinion. Rich women wanted to stay rich; poor women to become so.

The researchers’ conclusion, then, is that if, like a subordinate Harris sparrow, you are not in a position to fight your corner, it makes sense not to provoke trouble. In the distant past, when such instincts would have evolved, doing so would have been dangerous, and possibly fatal.

Women, by contrast...
evolutionarypsychology  muscles  politicalbias  evolution  science  politics 
november 2012 by thegrandnarrative
Social status and health: Misery index | The Economist
Low status rhesus macaques have worse immune systems because of their genes
science  genes  status  immunity  immunesystem  socialstatus 
april 2012 by thegrandnarrative
What do reproductive rights have to do with careers in science?
"the effect of children on women's academic careers is so remarkable that it eclipses other factors in contributing to women's underrepresentation in academic science."
science  academia  sciencecareers  mothering  parenting  womeninscience 
march 2012 by thegrandnarrative

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