Monday, 29 June 2015

taming our inner dinosaur

Why we need to call out put-downs.
our enlightened selves exert rather weak control on our everyday behaviour, and every one of us is only too ready to think of themselves as less prejudiced than the average person. It will be very difficult to root out the often subtle put-downs of women and other members of out-groups that slip into references or discussions. We can detect them more easily in others than in ourselves, and therefore we can help each other by calling them out. Calling out unacceptable remarks made by Fellows in public is a case in point.

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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

jaguars and leopards and cheetahs, oh my!

we are now vulnerable to some specific kinds of sofas
or why the recent improvement in neural net image recognition might be problematic

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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Monday, 22 June 2015

the calm after the storm

Typical summer’s day.  It has been hammering down with rain.  When it stopped, and the sun came out, the garden was a glorious picture against the still black sky:

Sunday, 21 June 2015

airports lie

I had a nice hop over to Amsterdam on Friday (flew out Thursday night, flew back Friday night) for an interesting Colloquium.

Here’s the obligatory photo from my hotel bedroom window, in the centre of Amsterdam:

There were three pieces of information about Schipol airport that, when taken together, could be have been problematical.

Easyjet boarding pass: Gate closes 30 minutes prior to departure
Board announcing departure gate initially: Gate is announced 40 minutes prior to departure
Board announcing departure gate later: walking time from here to gate, 26 minutes

Fortunately there are two lies in that information.
The gate opens less than 30 minutes prior to departure.
The walking time was more like 10 minutes.

However, I did spend a considerable amount of time walking around airports last week.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

criticising criticising criticism of a critcism

Here’s a few interesting posts about the Tim Hunt story:

In Sympathy for the Devil?, Michael Eisen provides some interesting background to the original story.  That background makes it even worse.

Another thoughtful entry in the debate is Janet D. Stemwedel’s post on why Good Scientists Should Publicly Criticize Tim Hunt's Claims.

I had assumed there were women involved in the history of Hunt’s discoveries.  Helen Cahill’s Guardian piece provides some details on The unseen women scientists behind Tim Hunt’s Nobel prize.

So, the story so far:
  • Tim Hunt criticises women (oh, my bad, “girls”) for being far too sensitive to criticism to do science.  When explicitly asked about his statements, he said he was trying to be honest,
  • Several women (and some men) call out Hunt for his blatant sexism.  And an amusing line of “distractingly sexy” photos gets tweeted.  
  • Hunt appears rather sensitive to this criticism.
  • Many men (and some women) then criticise these people for criticising Hunt, using oh so reasoned and non-hyperbolic terms like “baying witch hunt” and “feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness”.
So, when a man makes a sweeping statement of how women should be kept out of the lab, it’s just a joke, banter, unimportant.  When women call him out on it, that’s a witch-hunt, stifling academic freedom, a lynch mob, thought police.

The usual double-standard at play.

It’s not so much the original comments, bad enough as they are, as the doubling down and not-pologies and subsequent whinging, that causes the fury, by the way.  Other prominent people have made a huge gaffe, had it brought to their attention, realised they did wrong, apologised sincerely, and things have moved on (apart from a few people trying to say they were bullied into apologising, because, hey, why else would they have done so?).  Tim Hunt needs to learn about the first rule of holes.

Oh, and if an eminent scientist were to say that labs should be racially-segregated, or something equally racist, and was called out on it, would these people leap to his defence then, saying it was just a joke?  I suspect not.  So what does that tell you about how the defenders view this issue?