Archive for the ‘science and society’ Category

The thing that ties each of the following links together is a discussion of the need to incorporate equity, affirmation, and continued learning into social, scientific, and political spheres.  And to recognize that the lines between these spaces is a social construct.

This article offers an explanation of how sexism affects both the oppressed and the oppressor.  While they use a binary gender system in their drawings (male vs. female), it  is easy to understand how this could be applied to people in any gender system:

This article describes the work of Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi who were recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on expanding women’s and children’s rights in Pakistan and India, respectively.  Their stories highlight how personal identities are political and politics is personal:

This article goes in depth about African American and AfroCarribean identities in the U.S. as part of a larger history of colonization and slavery – how has this history impacted black Americans now and how is this oppression and the struggle for mutual humanization ongoing:

This article highlights some of the queer and trans* people of color working on gender, race, and sexuality equity in the U.S.  This is especially important given that the U.S. media (news, movies, t.v., radio, etc) predominately rewards and publicizes white, domestic, heterosexual, and cisgender people:

Lastly, this article shows some really interesting research being done about children’s responsiveness and understanding of human emotions and interactions.  It has incredible implications for understanding the impacts of trauma, domestic violence, and healthy or unhealthy relationships on children as young as 15 months old!




In the last decade or so, autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have been in the forefront of the news and research.  Originally, the people thought autism was a psychological disorder and that it was similar to schitzophrenia.  There was a complete lack of understanding about what autism was, how it affected those with it, and how people who were not autistic could relate to people with autism.  People assumed the behaviors of autistic children or adults were just “bad behaviors” that needed to be corrected, often through electroshock therapies, LSD, and other harmful (pain-based) “treatments”.  All of this was administered under the philosphy that “normal” = healthy.

In the 80′s, the genetic and biological basis of behavior started to become a focus in research and health practitioner skills, propelled in part by discoveries about the genetic basis of circadian rhythms.  Behavioral therapy began and the new focus for autistic children was to help the mask the biological basis of their behaviors and confirm to “normal” social behavior so that they could have “normal” lives.  At some point, researchers and parents began to realize that a lot of autistic behaviors were a response to stimulation – over and under stimulation – and research began focusing on the neurobiology and neurogenetics of autism.

The idea that difference is “abnormal” and that “abnormal” = unhealthy is the basis of a LOT of oppression, violence, and harm caused and maintained in communities and cultures across the world at every time in history.  White colonists believed black, brown, yellow, and red people were lesser than and qualified this with “science”, suggesting that white was normal and non-white was abnormal (and of course this thinking continues to dictate structures and communities in colonized spaces today).  This raises larger questions: Who gets to determine what is normal or healthy?  When does normal = healthy?  How does society use standards of “normal” to force marginalized communities out of power?

In 2005 an organization named Autism Speaks was formed (but non-autistic people) to support research that would find a “cure” for autism spectrum disorders.  The organizations viewpoint then and now is that autism is a devastating health crisis that causes children to be lesser than and results in a poor quality of life.  As an autistic person, I find this not only offensive, but hugely damaging (in too many ways to describe here) to parents with autistic children, to autistic children and adults, and to prospective support systems that could be formed for autistic people.  ”Curing” autism is similar to the argument about “curing” queerness.  Should we “fix” queer people so that they are all straight and cisgender, or should we support and embrace diverse experiences and lives for what they bring to the table?

As the recognition of autism and the number of autistic children has grown and continues to grow drastically, it is very important to address these questions.  One of the more visible effects of most autism spectrum disabilities is stimming, a word that is short for “self stimulation”.  Researchers now understand the the neurological systems of autistic people are different than those of most “neurotypical” people, making autistic individuals extra sensitive to some sensation and under-sensitive to others (as defined by neurotypical standards).  For example, many autistic people find that repetitive movements are calming (perhaps movement sensory input channels are chronically under-stimulated), so they may stim by tapping fingers or feet, flapping their hands, rocking, or doing something similar.  There is a big divide currently in the world of working with autistic children – should adults teach children to repress their stims or should they be accepted as supportive of childhood development?

I recently found a wonderfully written article on this topic and it refers to Thinking Fast and Slow.  I need to read this book soon (and maybe post on it later), but in the mean time, enjoy this article!  What are your thoughts on this or the other articles at the end of this one?


Here is a random/interesting article about a sensory phenomenon that occurs across the world.

Here is an excellent article about the progress that can be made when disciplines work together.

This is a collection of the videos that I used in lab discussion section of the ethical issues in human embryonic stem cells research in the 2014 BIOL36701 Principles Development at Purdue University.

1. An introduction to stem cell – A stem cell story

2. Are embryos persons?

3. A question of balance?

4. How patients may be exploited – Stem cell fraud

5. hESCs alternative I – Stem cells – the future: an introduction to iPS cells

6. hESCs alternative II – STAP cells

I have been paying attention to the ongoing discussion on open access to scientific research in the news media and have collected a number of interesting articles.  Here I will keep a record of a few interesting ones

2012-11-08 From the Guardian: “Open Access: ‘we no longer need expensive publishing networks‘”

2012-06-19 From the New Scientist: “Set science free from publishers’ paywalls

2012-04-17 From the Harvard Faculty Advisory Council Memorandum on Journal Pricing: “Major Periodical Subscriptions Cannot Be Sustained

I once wrote about the difficulty in getting access to the research papers here and I had to ask my friends from my home country to download that for me. The expensive journal subscription is obviously one reason that caused the problem. Obviously publishing in high-quality, open access journals with publisher like PLOS and BMC can be a good solution. However for many practical reasons, i.e. to survive and be recognized, scientists often do not act what they advocate is good. Let’s hope the field can wise up and treasure what is actually important to us.

A colleague at Purdue puts it in perspective in a Bloomberg News article:  College Costs Rise With $250,000-a-Year Bureaucrats

“Why is it that we can’t find any money for more faculty, but there seems to be an almost unlimited budget for administrators?” asks J. Paul Robinson, a Purdue University professor of biomedical engineering and chairman of the school’s faculty senate. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Dr. Winston Hide decides to resigns from his associate editor position of Genomics because of the expensive subscription rate of the journal precludes many in accessing important articles that are important for public health.

From The Guardian:

Today I resigned from the editorial board of a well respected journal in my field – Genomics. No longer can I work for a system that provides solid profits for the publisher while effectively denying colleagues in developing countries access to research findings.

A respectable decision! I must say that the situation in the developed countries is getting worse too. And I often have to ask my friends to download papers for me. Thus, publishing in open-access journals is a good alternative*. However, when the research budget is tight, who is going to pay for the publication fee?

*Disclaimer: I am an academic editor of PLoS ONE because I support their publication philosophy. This article reflects my personal view and does not reflect the Journal’s position.


In my last post, I provided several links to general introductions of stem cells. In this post, I will share several documentaries that show how bad people are taking advantage of desperate patients who have heard stem cells therapy may give them a last hope.

II. Desperate patients and people who take advantage of their situation

1. BBC Panorama – Stem Cells & Miracles (2009)

(2015-02-22) has taken this BBC video off from their site.

2. CBS 60 Minutes – Stem Cell Snake Oil (2010)


This is part 1 of the show; here are the links to part 2, part 3 and part 4.

3. CBS 60 Minutes – Stem cell fraud (2012)

Youtube link

CBS link