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Sorry, Dr. Honeydew
February 2, 2012 6:12 PM   Subscribe


 
I already have crushes on every really smart lady I meet. This is not healthy for me because they are so adorable here.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:19 PM on February 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yeah, but I've heard the shit they say, so...
posted by Sys Rq at 6:22 PM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


So... scientists are all white?
posted by Grimgrin at 6:23 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The smarter they are, etc.. amirite guys?
posted by pyrex at 6:23 PM on February 2, 2012


Pretty much all white, sorry.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:25 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see no blue light of science so I refuse to believe these are scientists.
posted by photoslob at 6:25 PM on February 2, 2012


So... scientists are all white?

Um? Did you even look at the latest entry?
posted by Jehan at 6:25 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think they slipped in a photo of Skrillex just to see if anyone was paying attention.
posted by distressingly thick sheets at 6:26 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, most scientists look like friendly middle-class nerds who are likely to wear glasses. Which is about how I had conceived of scientists to begin with - perhaps because I am myself a friendly middle-class nerd who wears glasses. Oh Tumblr, one of these days you'll surprise me.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:26 PM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


That one girl has THREE ponies. And I can't even get an edit window.
posted by dismas at 6:28 PM on February 2, 2012 [24 favorites]


This too.
posted by timsteil at 6:29 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Um? Did you even look at the latest entry?

I'm surprised there are so few Asians, but it seems like this Tumblr just started recently so statistically it's sort of meaningless. Right now there's only one black scientist on the whole thing, but extrapolating from that data point wouldn't be a good idea.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:31 PM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


What is white? (Looking for a scientific answer.)
posted by found missing at 6:31 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


yeah anigbrowl, I'm not a scientist but skinny folks, sorta nerdy, often with glasses was how I already viewed the stereotypical scientist. I'm not sure this is accomplishing what they set out to do.
posted by Hoopo at 6:33 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Note: Does not show me crying at all the wasted years and the futility of it all.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:34 PM on February 2, 2012 [12 favorites]


Also looks like there are no scientists over 40. Crap, I gotta go - nobody told me Logan's Run was true!
posted by Quietgal at 6:35 PM on February 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Having a nuclear physicist girlfirend would make me feel slightly emasculated.
posted by Trurl at 6:36 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry Dr. Honeydew.

Really? 'Cause the first thing I thought when I saw this guy was "Beaker!"
posted by palliser at 6:37 PM on February 2, 2012


Non-Asian Americans often forget than Asians commonly don't consider themselves white, Jehan.

I'd imagine the scientists over 40 mostly quit for industry jobs complete with house and kids, Quietgal. And the remaining ones probably had some faculty meeting about grading or funding strategies or similar.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:39 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also looks like there are no scientists over 40. Crap, I gotta go - nobody told me Logan's Run was true!

The ones over 40 are in that Professor or Hobo? quiz from a while back.
posted by kersplunk at 6:40 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised there are so few Asians

Also looks like there are no scientists over 40

Yes, but Neuroscientistan and Scientific Consultant, Jerry Nguyen, is surprisingly precocious.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:42 PM on February 2, 2012


They look so lifelike! Some sort of digital post processing filter or the judicious use of makeup and lighting?
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:43 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Piper J Klemm has three ponies. THREE PONIES!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:43 PM on February 2, 2012


Science grad students, certainly. And this is only a third of them, perhaps.
posted by bonehead at 6:44 PM on February 2, 2012


Zoe Matthews: Nuclear Physicist dressed as a bee teaching a viking about rotational forces with a party-ring makeshift yoyo.

I love this so much.
posted by rtha at 6:45 PM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Who knew that all scientists were hipsters in their early 30s?
posted by Wordwoman at 6:47 PM on February 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


extrapolating from that data point wouldn't be a good idea

Actually, the whole study is severely compromised by the imprecise nature of the title: This is What a Scientist Looks Like. A Scientist? There are pictures of multiple scientists, here. Clearly, this is intended to inform us on the subject of the physical characteristics of a significant sampling of scientists for the purpose of field identification and procurement, but nowhere is the methodology of identification described nor the region or conditions of these sitings listed. The title should be renamed to Non-random Self-identification Among 21st-Century Interdisciplinary Scientists on the Internet. Then it should be peer reviewed.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:47 PM on February 2, 2012 [40 favorites]


hey i thought of some stuff that was wrong with this thing
posted by facetious at 6:53 PM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Scientists ride camels
Scientists have pets
Sometimes they carry babies
Sometimes they carry nets

In labs they put on rubber gloves
Outside they put on coats
Some of the have ponies
And some of them have boats
posted by neroli at 6:56 PM on February 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm surprised by how many of them are women, and Asian even!
posted by Flashman at 7:01 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where zie lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became hot and bothered;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Checked my smartphone for Internet astronomer porn.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:07 PM on February 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


So quirky!

Or should I say...QUARK-Y!

(Because quarks are a Science.)
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:07 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


(it's so wrong that that poem now makes me think of Breaking Bad rather than Walt Whitman, IRFH.)
posted by gaspode at 7:14 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm stunned by the lack of beards and ponytails. What's wrong with kids these days?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:28 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


makes me think of Breaking Bad rather than Walt Whitman

Walter White(man), close enough...
posted by grog at 7:34 PM on February 2, 2012


None of them have hunchbacked assistants?

I'm dissapointed as hell.
posted by jonmc at 7:46 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


This challenges stereotypes HOW?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:52 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


None of them are MAD scientists, dude. That's something I guess.
posted by jonmc at 7:56 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I promise you, ethnomethodologist, that there are a metric shitload of people out here who hear "scientist" and think "old white guy in a lab coat, maybe looking in a microscope."

What I'm saying is, you might be operating with some selection bias.
posted by rtha at 7:57 PM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


*puts on lab coat, looks at thread under microscope*
posted by jonmc at 7:58 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Having a nuclear physicist girlfirend would make me feel slightly emasculated.

Then you can never enjoy the special sexytimes one can only have with a nuclear physicist. That's a damn shame.
posted by emjaybee at 7:59 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


They look a lot like developers.
posted by straight_razor at 8:05 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


special sexytimes one can only have with a nuclear physicist

It's because of the radiation, right? I've seen Spider-Man, I know how that stuff works.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:06 PM on February 2, 2012


It's new. If you don't see enough scientists of the kind you know represented, get them to send in a pic.
posted by Miko at 8:13 PM on February 2, 2012


It's because of the radiation, right? I've seen Spider-Man, I know how that stuff works.

I can answer that:

In 1921, Nobel laureate chemist and physicist Marie Curie was touring the United States when she finally succumbed to the inevitable effects of a lifetime of exposure to exotic forms of radiation, growing suddenly to almost forty feet in total height in less than a week...

Trapped by her extreme gigantism, Marie Curie spent the rest of her days in service to her newly adopted country, fighting crime, aliens, and giant steam-powered robot ninjas, until her tragic death in 1934 from an untreated infestation of eustachian pigeons.

The Ballad of Marie Curie: American Hero

Marie Curie was an unlikely superhero
She didn't know radiation would make her grow
Like a sequoia she stood against our enemies
They stood no chance against our special armies
Of giants in science

Her fascination with radiation
Was the foundation of our nation's salvation
Before she gained forty stories in elevation
It was a dire situation
She inspired a generation

She was a monster
A monster for America
She was a monster
A monster for America
And when we lost her
We lost our heart
Oh, we knew it from the start:
She was too big for the part

In France and Poland she might win Nobels by the bucket
We said, "Fuck it, come see America
You'll love it, never leave it
We've got room for you to breathe in
And something to believe in."

She was a monster
A monster for America
She was a monster
A monster for America
And when we lost her
We lost our heart
Oh, we knew it from the start:
She was too big for the part

(Repeat Chorus)

So long as Marie Curie
Is watching over me
I'll know I'm free
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:15 PM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Having a nuclear physicist girlfirend would make me feel slightly emasculated.

And yet it would be an ideal situation because she'd be used to handling microscopic things.

zing
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:19 PM on February 2, 2012 [16 favorites]


This is my new favorite Tumblr.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:21 PM on February 2, 2012


Who knew that all scientists were hipsters in their early 30s?

Me. I knew that. I *am* that.

"Marie Curie invented the theory of radioactivity, the treatment of radioactivity, and dying of radioactivity." - Fact Sphere
posted by maryr at 8:36 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


All these science posts and in the first one I study a similar thing, and in this one I know someone on the first page.

Made my day.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:36 PM on February 2, 2012


Then you can never enjoy the special sexytimes one can only have with a nuclear physicist

All quantum physicists make terrible lovers though. Whenever they've got the momentum they can't find the position, and when they've got the position they can't find the momentum.
posted by howfar at 8:41 PM on February 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


All quantum physicists make terrible lovers though. Whenever they've got the momentum they can't find the position, and when they've got the position they can't find the momentum.

You. Are. A. Bad. Person.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:44 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually, the whole study is severely compromised by the imprecise nature of the title: This is What a Scientist Looks Like. A Scientist? There are pictures of multiple scientists, here.

Yes, but once they get enough scientists, and properly orient the photos, they'll take a Galton-style composite photograph of the Type of the Scientist.
posted by kenko at 8:46 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Problem with the male quantum physicists is you can never even tell if his tomcat is alive until you pull it back out and look at it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:47 PM on February 2, 2012


And the Type of the Scientist will be more attractive than any of the individual scientists.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:48 PM on February 2, 2012


So quirky!

Or should I say...QUARK-Y!


What a strange thing to say.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:08 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Charmed, I'm sure.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:15 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bottom or Top?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:19 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Depends... what are you up for?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:24 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


They're all younger than me and I haven't even finished my BSc. yet. Sheeeeeee-it.
posted by klanawa at 9:33 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


In labs they put on rubber nitrile gloves because of better breakthrough times when using organic solvents
nerds win the pennant! nerrrdddsss

posted by en forme de poire at 10:05 PM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


This verifies that my is-a-scientist expectation was already correctly calibrated.
posted by dickasso at 12:23 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


rtha is right. A lot of you who're voicing your lack of shock have to remember that you're probably not the intended audience for this project. A relative of mine who teaches primary (elementary) school asks each of her classes to draw a scientist. Almost universally, they draw a middle-aged white man with wild hair, possibly a lab coat, occasionally a wheelchair: it's a mixture of Einstein and Hawking, basically. Science is seen by a lot of people, kids especially, as an Old White Guy occupation. Kids in her classes who aren't white boys are much less likely to think that they could grow up to be scientists.

This is terrible, and surprisingly easy to overcome. My relative's classes now get shown photos of me and my colleagues working in our lab, ostensibly just to shots them what a working biology lab looks like. They're sometimes interested in the lab itself, but usually there are more kids who just talk about their shock at what the scientists look like: about 70% female and about 40% white, in that particular group (most heartbreaking comment heard from a girl in that class: "but she's too pretty to be a scientist!"). Kids who're asked to draw a scientist after seeing these photos generally draw an adult version of themselves, whatever race and sex they happen to be, and can more easily picture it as something they might want to grow up to be.

Moving away from kids, I once attended a "meet the scientists" event organized by the charity who funded my PhD. Again, it was disheartening to see how many adults were surprised to see how we looked, and more so when it turned out that the senior person there was one of the young(ish!), pretty, non-white women.

I don't think a tumblr blog is the best way to reach their intended audience, but I think the basic idea behind the project is a good one. The stereotype of what a scientist "should" look like is powerful and pervasive, and these sorts of images are an effective way to combat it.
posted by metaBugs at 1:30 AM on February 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm amused that this site contains evidence that certain other particles are colliding at LHC. I expect the world to be overrun by hard to find physics munchkins.
posted by srboisvert at 2:06 AM on February 3, 2012


Okay, how impossibly adorable is Zoe Matthews in her hard hat at the Large Hadron Collider?

The fact that she knows how to use the LHC makes it even better.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:17 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


They should include pictures of people who look like "scientists" but are actually not scientists.
posted by hudders at 4:52 AM on February 3, 2012


The stereotype of what a scientist "should" look like is powerful and pervasive

That's exactly why I thought this worth posting. I used to be a teacher, and it's so true that especially in the early years, kids' stereotypes of adults and careers are shaped more by pop culture caricatures and shallow perceptions than direct experience, and these stereotypes can stay embedded for life, depending on the scope of one's life and career. A scientist is an old white guy with crazy hair, or a Dexter who is utterly awkward and unappealing.

We used to bring adults into our classrooms whenever it linked to the curriculum to talk about their life experiences, and it is amazing to see the power that this simple act has on children. The theoretical, abstract stuff of stories becomes real and suddenly they see this as a possibility for themselves.

When I was teaching 1-2, we spent the year on a thematic study of farms and agriculture. One of the parents came to us with an opportunity to bring someone in: a member of their church, a man in his 70s, worked as a crop duster his entire life, starting at 15 or so, and did a stint as an Army flyer. He came in and talked to the class about flying and farms, very honestly too (they weren't always spraying nice stuff), but he loved flying and was really patient talking about how he got started, mistakes he made, whether he ever got scared, what his favorite moments were, etc.. The kids fell in love with him, and he invited us out to the country airport outside the city where he kept his recreational plane. The kids got a tour of the hangar and got to climb around his plane, sit in the cockpit, etc., all of which totally wowed them. He became a rock star. Not only did this guy vastly broaden the kids' sense of what being a 'pilot' might be - that is, not only commercial jet lines or military - but he was also black. I guarantee you that before this experience, if you asked kids to describe a person who was a pilot, a black 70-year-old from rural Pennsylvania would not have been their image.

That's why I liked this blog - my first thought was 'damn, I wish I was still teaching, it's great to have somewhere to grab this specific type of image' - as you say, even just to illustrate a presentation ostensibly on another topic, like 'where do scientists work' or 'life science, chemistry, physics' etc.
posted by Miko at 6:31 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, do a Google image search for 'scientist.' I just did and, well, that says it all.
posted by Miko at 6:32 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The stereotype of what a scientist "should" look like is powerful and pervasive

If this is supposed to overcome that, I suggest that you are leaning on a weak reed here. It's not representative, nor very inclusive of the lab and conference populations I've seen for the last twenty years.

The most common language spoken in my lab is Mandarin. English is a strong number two, sure, but there's some Urdu, Arabic and French too. That blog is a self-selected set of people from the same social circle, and that's fine: they're friends and colleges, putting up pictures of themselves. But they are not representative of the entire community of science, and it's damaging, in my opinion to pretend that this is so.

What sticks in my craw is the silent exclusion of visible minorities. This is so systemic that it's not even worthy of mention anymore. It's understood at the bench that if you're a first-generation immigrant who doesn't speak English perfectly, you're not ever going to move out of the lab. You're never going to be the one who speaks to the press. You're not the one who will get tagged for the high-profile committees. Many doors will be closed to you.

Facility with English is the main vehicle for discrimination; it's a-ok by HR to deny someone a promotion if their English isn't up to scratch. Any lab I've ever worked in has a divide between the native-speakers and the allophones. This blog reflects that divide starkly---these are those who are comfortable with English.

That blog is fine for what it is, but don't think for a minute that it is representative. I don't see Chunyan or Zeyu or Pervez or Keval under any of those pictures. At least half of my colleges and friends are missing.
posted by bonehead at 7:07 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I understand the background of the critique but not the dismissal of the effort. It's a brand new project. It may not reflect your own observations from your vantage point just yet, but it's not like a published book that's already finished. You can communicate with the blog poster if you are interested in making it more representative.

Here, I'll make it easy:

Submit

Submit your name, a photo of yourself, what field of science you work in, and any relevant links you wish to include. Please keep your photos appropriate for ages 6 and up
.
posted by Miko at 7:29 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is white? (Looking for a scientific answer.)

made me think of...

This hour of Radiolab, a look at race.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 8:01 AM on February 3, 2012


I understand the background of the critique but not the dismissal of the effort.

It's simple: of the few dozen pictures posted, it's missing half of the people I interact with on a daily basis. This seems very unlikely to change. Normalizing this set of pictures as "scientists" broadens the stereotype a little, but still excludes about 50%.

This blog is very unlikely to reach those that it (unintentionally) excludes. None of my allophone friends read English blogs. They aren't likely to be told about it either, because of the language divide.

That said, I'm going to try harder to recruit more widely for science fair judges this year.
posted by bonehead at 8:15 AM on February 3, 2012


It's simple: of the few dozen pictures posted, it's missing half of the people I interact with on a daily basis.

Right, so grab a camera and take some pictures!

None of my allophone friends read English blogs.

I don't think this is aimed at scientists. I think it's aimed at kids, students, and others who don't encounter scientists on a daily basis. In other words, it wants to change the public perception of scientists, not the scientist perception of scientists.

It would be great to show that labs can be highly international places.
posted by Miko at 8:24 AM on February 3, 2012


Normalizing this set of pictures as "scientists" broadens the stereotype a little, but still excludes about 50%.

For god's sake, it's a 10-minute-old tumblr! Give it a chance before you accuse it of failing to save the world! And go take some pictures of your scientist friends who don't look like the people already on the blog. Be the change you want to see.
posted by rtha at 8:39 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Previously on Metafilter: Seventh graders describe and draw pictures of scientists before and after their visit to Fermilab.
posted by elgilito at 9:06 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


It would be great to show that labs can be highly international places.

That's my point. Exhorting me to fix their problem by "grabbing a camera" trivializes the issue.
posted by bonehead at 9:17 AM on February 3, 2012


What about soft scientists? Does anybody care what they look like?
posted by Mrs.Spiffy at 9:18 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


WIth myself at least, I am much more like the first group that the kids drew than the second group.

Maybe kids think that all scientists are chemists and when the meet a bunch of physicists they then think that all chemists are like them.

I figure that the natural ground state of a chemist is drunk anyways so what do I know?

(In reality that drunk stereotype holds up rather well I've been out in mixed group of Hard scientists and liberal arts majors and the scientists were the ones drinking stuff down like it would spoil later that minute, while the liberal arts were sitting around a table sounding smart.)
posted by koolkat at 9:32 AM on February 3, 2012


Plush?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:32 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Soft scientists, I mean.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:33 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'll pass this along to my colleagues; it would be neat to have them submit a set of photos of the normal, age 30-60ish moms, dads and everyday-looking folks, which does, actually, include a fair bit of ethnic diversity, that is our pack of organic chemists at my pharmaceutical lab.

most of these photos look nearly identical to the group of organic chemists and academic physicists that are friends of mine in Switzerland, actually.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:41 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Exhorting me to fix their problem by "grabbing a camera" trivializes the issue.

Then I think that you might be trying to solve a different issue than this blog is trying to solve.
posted by Miko at 9:46 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't have a problems with the tumblr itself. It is what it is.

I do have difficulty with the gloss being put on it here: that this is a good example of inclusiveness, for school kids no less, when half of the people who should be in the picture are missing.
posted by bonehead at 10:43 AM on February 3, 2012


...and yet the suggestion that you grab a camera and contribute to a blog that is asking for contributions is declared to be "trivializing the issue." So what, exactly, do you want? And if this blog ain't cuttin' it, what will you do besides criticize it?
posted by rtha at 10:54 AM on February 3, 2012


I want my friends to not be invisible. I want kids to know that science is a lot more inclusive than this tumblr makes it out to be.

My concern is that I don't think a token picture or two will solve the blog's structural problems of reach for contributors, as described above. Prove me wrong perhaps, but I don't see the point in trying to fix something broken in its basic framing.

I continue to prefer to put my efforts into more direct, tangible outreach to kids, like recruiting a greater diversity of judges for our regional and national science fairs. Having direct, ten-minute conversations can be a powerful way to connect with a kid.

I'm frankly taken aback by the enthusiasm for this blog, especially in it's current state. I don't see the great example of inclusiveness many are praising.
posted by bonehead at 12:29 PM on February 3, 2012


I do have difficulty with the gloss being put on it here: that this is a good example of inclusiveness, for school kids no less, when half of the people who should be in the picture are missing.

The only people who've mentioned school kids in relation to this are me and Miko. Miko has explicitly acknowledged that it isn't (yet) representative. I mentioned in my comment that the photo set that I sent to a school (entirely separate from this set) was about "40% white". To expand on that, my sampling method for taking those photos was "who's around this afternoon and in a good mood?", which naturally included a fairly wide range of racial backgrounds, because that's how research labs tend to be. They also represented a range of nationalities and native languages, but it's hard to capture an accent in a photograph so I guess the kids will never know.

Also, note that this project is "what a scientist looks like", not "where a scientist is from". It's about presented gender and race, reminding people that not all scientists are white males. Unless each photo includes the subject waving their passport, or comes with an .mp3 of their accent, nationality and language don't come into it. Your comment conflating that issue with this photoset upthread only makes sense if we assume that "visible minority" and "poor English skills" (or even "bilingual") are mostly-overlapping groups, which is not at all true of the labs I've worked in or in my experience at conferences. Mind you, I'm in the UK so we have plenty of non-white native speakers and get a lot of white Europeans with English as a second or third language in the mix, which perhaps you don't have in the US?

I don't think that anyone here is arguing that this picture set in particular is complete or even nearly so. It's not the official position of some campaign body or even a completed amateur project; it's a two-month old tumblr blog with about 25 posts that's actively soliciting submissions to widen their picture set. The only way it can get better is if, as people are suggesting to you, instead of complaining that a two-month-old blog is incomplete we pick up our cameras and join the community effort.
posted by metaBugs at 12:30 PM on February 3, 2012


I continue to prefer to put my efforts into more direct, tangible outreach to kids, like recruiting a greater diversity of judges for our regional and national science fairs. Having direct, ten-minute conversations can be a powerful way to connect with a kid.

And that is great, but I see two issues. First, I'm not sure how someone who is not English proficient will be able to converse with kids at science fairs. Second, science fairs reach kids who are already hooked. I see this blog as potentially really useful for people introducing science as a field to young people, and because it's widely accessible it could potentially be a helpful teacher resource which could reach many more kids than science fair does.

Your efforts sound great, but I don't think your efforts are really in competition with anyone else's efforts to change perceptions of science as a field. They can be complementary. In fact your involvement in the efforts of those who share your concerns could only serve to make them better. A little Googling around reveals the blog's owner is in science journalism and public information and is a pretty active blogger. I can only imagine that she would be interested in your ideas.

It's possible for two different people to tackle an enormous issue like geographic, ethnic, specialty, and gender diversity in different ways by focusing on different expressions of that issue. English language proficiency as a barrier to progress in the sciences and changing the public stereotype of scientists as white men who work in chemistry labs may be interrelated, but they are different expressions of the issue of diversity in science. There is one of these issues that a static-image Tumblr blog can help fix.
posted by Miko at 12:51 PM on February 3, 2012


Would you really want to show this to a bunch of kids, including those of asian, se asian and african extraction, in it's current state, and call it a good example of what scientists look like? Would a little girl of Chinese parents see herself here? Is this, today, a good teacher resource, one you would have no reservations about using?

If not, what's your recipe for engaging those parts of the science community to contribute? I cannot see just saying "open to everyone" will net more than the community already contributing. These things tend to be self-reinforcing. Language, cultural and ethic factors are more intertwined than I think you give them credit for.

First, I'm not sure how someone who is not English proficient will be able to converse with kids at science fairs.

Outreach goes two ways. There's a basic level of proficiency that has be there sure, but this is also about them feeling part of "normal" society too and less like an outsider.
posted by bonehead at 1:25 PM on February 3, 2012


I continue to prefer to put my efforts into more direct, tangible outreach to kids, like recruiting a greater diversity of judges for our regional and national science fairs. Having direct, ten-minute conversations can be a powerful way to connect with a kid.

See, and I think this is awesome and necessary.

I still really don't understand why you're so down on a DIY blog that isn't holding itself out as the only place where pictures of different kinds of scientists can be posted. I really don't. They are not preventing anyone else from doing a similar kind of project, online or off. They have not sucked all the "change the popular stereotype of scientists" energy from the world.

If not, what's your recipe for engaging those parts of the science community to contribute?

You could start another tumblr that solicits photos from scientists you know. That creates a different kind of selection bias, of course. But then they could start blogs about the kinds of scientists they know. Etc.

You are unnecessarily putting the creators of this blog between a rock and a hard place: 1) They are not inclusive enough and B) Any pictures I send it would just be tokens. Basically, you seem to be unhappy that this exists at all because it's not exactly what you would make if you made it. There is a solution for that.
posted by rtha at 2:01 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sure I would!

Would a little girl of Chinese parents see herself here?

Well first, what would she be seeing if there were no website? No examples of people other than a pop culture stereotype.

Second, for one thing, she would be seeing women.

Is this, today, a good teacher resource, one you would have no reservations about using?

Yes, as a professional educator, I would have no reservations about employing this in my classroom instruction.

You might be shocked to realize how many imperfect teacher resources there are. We simply do not have media, literature, and textbooks that reflect with perfect accuracy what the student population looks like (and that varies vastly from school to school anyway). That's why human beings are in classrooms to guide and mediate the interactions between students and things.

What is really the worst-case scenario is silence; utter absence of resources. It would be possible, for instance, to start a year's worth of science classes by asking the kids to draw a scientist or make a list of imagined characteristics of scientists, then show some of these images, then have the discussion: who is /is not able to be scientists? Who is missing from these images? Followups could include researching and identifying other scientists and conducting email interviews with them, as a project. Or any number of other ways to explore the topic. It's not as though a vacuum of critical inquiry has to be assumed.


I cannot see just saying "open to everyone" will net more than the community already contributing.


Only if everyone who is not already contributing decides, like you, not to contribute. Then who's self-reinforcing? You've been given a free, friendly platform and an invitation to contribute. It's hard for me to blame the person who created the platform for your refusal to contribute.

These things tend to be self-reinforcing.

Again...unlike science fair how? Do you think science fair is a fabulous way to encourage kids to become interested in science and scientists? All kids? Or just a self-selecting, self-reinforcing subcommunity who are already doing well at and being encouraged in science, because they've already - through parents or exceptional teachers - been exposed to influences that support their growing interest?

Maybe it's because my undergraduate work in education focused on gender bias in instruction, but I know that despite recent successes, there are still major areas of inequality in gender bias, at least, in science fair. I haven't yet looked at ethnicity as a factor in science fair placement but wonder if you'd want to check that out, too.
posted by Miko at 2:17 PM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I agree with bonehead. American school children should know that if they become scientists, they might end up in a lab where the most common language spoken is Mandarin. And they should be able to decide how they feel about that.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:10 PM on February 3, 2012


I think that all of these people look fun, and that, in itself, is likely to get kids to respond positively. My 11 year old is hugely into planetary science right now, and he's proud of what he knows, but I know he also worries about what other kids think. He embraces the word geek, but there's still a hesitancy in actually embracing his very scientific nature. He's a middle class white male, but I think he would benefit from this blog. Because like I said, these scientists look like fun, happy people, not ostracized misfits, which is what he probably fears.
posted by Biblio at 3:18 PM on February 3, 2012


American school children should know that if they become scientists, they might end up in a lab where the most common language spoken is Mandarin.

It's kind of true that all American children are probably going to need Mandarin - so don't worry, the curricula are already being restructured around global literacy and things like the Confucious Institute are powering the growth of Chinese language learning in the US. This impacts my job a lot - we have a lot of demand for our programs on Chinese art and culture, much less for other cultural areas, because the teachers are teaching China so much more. it's coming, for everyone, not just scientists.
posted by Miko at 3:31 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


[ Deleted a couple of comments. Seriously, people, you all know better. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:37 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I liked this pic the Jaunty hardhat and goofy expression contrasted with, well, a particle accelerator
posted by delmoi at 5:12 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, this thread sure got derailed hard. Do people who don't speak English well sit around reading random English tumblers blogs all day? How would they even find out about this blog? Maybe it is a problem but lashing out at this tumbler seems over the top.
posted by delmoi at 5:31 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with Miko, any diversity inspires. An African American kid won't notice that *only* one African American appears, she'll notice one African, various darkish skinned Asians, and many women.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:08 PM on February 3, 2012


The blog has a total of 4 pages. Is that really a large enough sampling size to make conclusions about the demographic reach of this blog?
posted by savvysearch at 6:46 PM on February 3, 2012


NERDS
posted by tmaste1 at 10:42 PM on February 3, 2012


I call bullshit - not one picture of Batman.
posted by Muddler at 8:30 AM on February 4, 2012


All quantum physicists make terrible lovers though. Whenever they've got the momentum they can't find the position, and when they've got the position they can't find the momentum.

Once we have the momentum, no position is out of bounds! I think the equivalent problem is more universal: Whenever you have the energy, you can't find the time.
posted by springload at 9:42 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


American school children should know that if they become scientists, they might end up in a lab where the most common language spoken is Mandarin.

Yes, and they should know that if you wish to publish your work and have it taken seriously by the international scientific community, you're going to need to be able to write in English. It's not fair, but it's the current standard and shows little chance of changing any time soon.
posted by maryr at 1:14 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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