18 May 2011
Blogging, a topic I love, can have a nasty underbelly. But thank goodness for that! Because every now and then someone reveals the raison d'être of their research agenda. The Guardian reports that on Monday, Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, "published an article on his Psychology Today blog that sent shockwaves across Twitter and the blogosphere and reminded many of us of just how dangerous this kind of "science" can be." They continue:
In his incendiary piece, which has since been taken down, Kanazawa discussed the scientific basis for "why black women are less attractive than any other women". Note that Kanazawa did not claim to have discovered why black women are perceived to be less attractive, or why he believed that black women are less attractive.
After bombarding the reader with colourful bar graphs and a set of numbers, he asserts that he has found the answer as to why black women are "objectively" less attractive than women of any other race, and it has something to do with testosterone and genetic mutations.
Following the backlash that ensued, the headline, "Why are black women less physically attractive than other women?", was first edited, before the article was taken down in its entirety. This is interesting, because it implies that the editors didn't initially accept that there was anything wrong with the article itself – only a headline that needed tweaking. However, even the poorest-performing psychology undergrad at a university at the bottom of any league table will tell you that the article oozes bad science.
10 May 2011
At a website at Smith College (QuickTime Video Excerpts); description below:
"The Squid and its Giant Nerve Fiber" was filmed in the 1970s at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England. This is the laboratory where Hodgkin and Huxley conducted experiments on the squid giant axon in the 1940s. Their experiments unraveled the mechanism of the action potential, and led to a Nobel Prize. Long out of print, the film is an historically important record of the voltage-clamp technique as developed by Hodgkin and Huxley, as well as an interesting glimpse at how the experiments were done.
09 May 2011
Generally practitioners of science and medicine approach the writing of history from a perspective slightly different than social or cultural historians. A Hole in the Head is no exception to this rule – indeed the summary of the volume makes that fact explicit as it presents questions about why practitioners pursue “blind alleys and errors”. Typically such concerns lead to a somewhat amateurish sense of history, but Gross’s sophistication never succumbs to simplistic interpretation. He achieves – like Janus – the ability to look backward and forward. Indeed, the volume shows a concern for what Owsei Temkin observed in his own historical practice as a need to be “both methodically useful and historically instructive” for the present.  Because the essays in this volume are highly diverse, it is perhaps best to briefly offer two examples of the above preoccupations, which may also suffice to illustrate the appeal of the volume and its thoughtful approach.