How to talk like a scientist, but say nothing of value.

I’ve always liked scientific vocabulary, because it can be used to describe incredibly important and useful data with an economy of terms.  But sometimes it’s fun to borrow these terms and incorporate them into your regular conversation, and I support anyone doing this without reservation. 

So without further ado, here are some very useful graphs and data tools that can easily be co-opted to communicate very useless information.  

Sinusoidal curves:

These are graphs you may remember from pre-calculus, and they oscillate between high and low values, pretty much into infinity.  Most recently, I’ve felt that a sinusoidal curve is really the best way to illustrate a phenomenon I know many others have observed. This includes ocean waves, sound waves, and my friends’ quadrennial fascination with soccer:

Likert Scale:

A classic.  I’m sure you’ve interacted with some kind of likert scale or other in the past week.  It’s a useful way to rank similar statements, and then get a personalized score of how you feel about these statements as a whole.  Generally, Likert scales are rated with numbers, with low numbers meaning something, and the high numbers meaning their opposite.  For a long (long!) time I ranked everything in my life on a scale of 1-3, with one being awful and three being fantastic.  But then I visited a friend whose mother had a margarita blender. A margarita blender is just a regular blender, but instead of having settings that go from power level 1 to power level 3, it has a dial that goes from “Siesta” to “Fiesta” all the way to “Arriba.”  It is also worth noting that the top of this blender was shaped like a sombrero.  Anyway, these functions became the default scale for all of the Likert Items that comprise my daily life.*

*Note:  replacing the numbers in a Likert scale with terms kinda defeats the whole purpose, as now you can’t sum up any of the values for formal data analysis.  But using my daily goof-off ranking data in any kind of formal way is too Siesta to even be discussed here on this platform. 

Bimodal distribution:

This is a wonderful chart that demonstrates how something may be more likely at its smaller or larger form than it is at its average.  One classic example is shoe size in the population.  If you mapped the nations shoe sizes, and didn’t separate out the population by gender, you’d probably see two spikes.  One representing average for female feet, and another representing average size for male feet.  You wouldn’t see too many people who had shoe sizes halfway between where the majority of men are and where the majority of women are.

Feet aside, here is a bimodal distribution of how many times, on average, I might ask to touch your hair depending on its length.  If you are my friend and I’ve stopped asking to touch your hair and I just do it anyway, I’m sorry.  And thank you.  You’re very patient.  Also what kind of conditioner are you using???

Maybe it’s the exam you have in three hours that you meant to study for, but instead spent all night clicking through every link in the Mars Attacks wikipedia page. Maybe those three cell phones and two knives your OkCupid date placed on the table just alerted you to the fact that you are out with an ex-convict. It’s okay, friend. These things happen to all of us! The important thing is that you have an escape plan ready to execute at a moment’s notice. Here are some effective ways to appear afflicted with a legitimate illness at any time. You might just become the James Bond of not having to go to your great-aunt’s cat’s funeral.

I started writing a column for collegehumor.  It’s been a lot of fun so far, but I hope to post more on this blog as well as soon as I finish up with some of this schoolin’ stuffs that’s been keeping me busy..

The Fourth Dimension - A Mindtrip in Time.

When I first saw an advertisement for a 4-D movie, I really lost my cool.  Here are some notes on the fourth dimension, so you can understand just why this movie-theater promise seemed so excruciatingly exciting to me:


If I told you to meet me at 14th st. and 8th ave, I am giving you directions in two dimensions.  That intersection is a flat plane.  Then, if I tell you to meet me on the third floor of a building there, I am giving you a direction in the third dimension.  Now, this meeting cannot occur unless I tell you what time to meet me there. That, loosely, is me giving you a direction in the fourth dimension.  The third floor of that building in 2012 is going to be a completely different space than the third floor of that building in 2041.  The fourth dimension is sometimes referred to as “time,”  but I’ve heard people refer to the fourth dimension as “duration” and I think this is better.  The fourth dimension is like an observation of the third dimension, as it changes and grows.


Think about a cigarette that has burned undisturbed.  In a way, you can see that cigarette as it was during all points in it’s 3-D life.  You’re kinda seeing it in the fourth dimension!


A two dimensional figure can only draw a line.  She can only draw in 1-D.  A three dimensional figure can only draw stick figures.  She can only draw in 2-D. Even though she draws on a 3-D object (paper), she can still only draw in 2-D. By this logic, though, A fourth dimensional entity could, on four-dimensional paper, draw a 3-D figure.  This figure could take up space, but would in effect be frozen in time.  It couldn’t have any kind of past or future. WHOA.

Based on these notes, here is what I thought a 4-D Movie experience might mean:
A 3-D movie where every image was simultaneously projected out at 90-degree angles to make a 4-D image. (textbook dimensionality definition.)
A more metaphorical 4-D movie, where an object was followed for the duration of it’s existence, giving you an overview of it’s full life.
A scary movie where 4-D beings draw 3-D characters, imbue them with consciousness, and then leave them frozen on their 4-D paper forever.
A 4-D movie, it turns out, is just a 3-D movie where your seat moves.  In that vein, a 5-D movie is a 3-D movie where your seat moves, and also fart smells are pumped into the theatre when someone farts on the screen.  Still cool, but not what I had in mind. Let Down Frowns all around :(

The Fourth Dimension - A Mindtrip in Time.


When I first saw an advertisement for a 4-D movie, I really lost my cool.  Here are some notes on the fourth dimension, so you can understand just why this movie-theater promise seemed so excruciatingly exciting to me:

If I told you to meet me at 14th st. and 8th ave, I am giving you directions in two dimensions.  That intersection is a flat plane.  Then, if I tell you to meet me on the third floor of a building there, I am giving you a direction in the third dimension.  Now, this meeting cannot occur unless I tell you what time to meet me there. That, loosely, is me giving you a direction in the fourth dimension.  The third floor of that building in 2012 is going to be a completely different space than the third floor of that building in 2041.  The fourth dimension is sometimes referred to as “time,”  but I’ve heard people refer to the fourth dimension as “duration” and I think this is better.  The fourth dimension is like an observation of the third dimension, as it changes and grows.

Think about a cigarette that has burned undisturbed.  In a way, you can see that cigarette as it was during all points in it’s 3-D life.  You’re kinda seeing it in the fourth dimension!

A two dimensional figure can only draw a line.  She can only draw in 1-D.  A three dimensional figure can only draw stick figures.  She can only draw in 2-D. Even though she draws on a 3-D object (paper), she can still only draw in 2-D. By this logic, though, A fourth dimensional entity could, on four-dimensional paper, draw a 3-D figure.  This figure could take up space, but would in effect be frozen in time.  It couldn’t have any kind of past or future. WHOA.

Based on these notes, here is what I thought a 4-D Movie experience might mean:

  • A 3-D movie where every image was simultaneously projected out at 90-degree angles to make a 4-D image. (textbook dimensionality definition.)
  • A more metaphorical 4-D movie, where an object was followed for the duration of it’s existence, giving you an overview of it’s full life.
  • A scary movie where 4-D beings draw 3-D characters, imbue them with consciousness, and then leave them frozen on their 4-D paper forever.

A 4-D movie, it turns out, is just a 3-D movie where your seat moves.  In that vein, a 5-D movie is a 3-D movie where your seat moves, and also fart smells are pumped into the theatre when someone farts on the screen.  Still cool, but not what I had in mind. Let Down Frowns all around :(

poptech:

All the American Flags On the Moon Are Now White

NASA has finally answered a long-standing question: all but one of the six American flags on the Moon are still standing up. Everyone is now proudly talking about it. The only problem is that they aren’t American flags anymore. They are all white.
So America f*ck yeah, right? Not quite. While the $5.50 nylon flags are still waving on the windless orb, they are not flags of the United States of America anymore. All Moon and material experts have no doubt about it: the flags are now completely white. If you leave a flag on Earth for 43 years, it would be almost completely faded. On the Moon, with no atmospheric protection whatsoever, that process happens a lot faster. The stars and stripes disappeared from our Moon flags quite some time ago.

poptech:

All the American Flags On the Moon Are Now White

NASA has finally answered a long-standing question: all but one of the six American flags on the Moon are still standing up. Everyone is now proudly talking about it. The only problem is that they aren’t American flags anymore. They are all white.

So America f*ck yeah, right? Not quite. While the $5.50 nylon flags are still waving on the windless orb, they are not flags of the United States of America anymore. All Moon and material experts have no doubt about it: the flags are now completely white. If you leave a flag on Earth for 43 years, it would be almost completely faded. On the Moon, with no atmospheric protection whatsoever, that process happens a lot faster. The stars and stripes disappeared from our Moon flags quite some time ago.

(via motherjones)

A hypothesis is a statement that is meant to anticipate a potential outcome of an experiment. You can think of it as a prediction. Generally, scientists will structure their hypotheses using an “If/Then” format, to predict that IF “A” occurs, THEN “B” should follow as a result. 

Here is an example:

IF you invite me to your fancy wedding, 
THEN I will embarrass you when I stick nerf darts all over my body and shove a lightsaber up my nose.

The Independent Variable here is “inviting me to your wedding.”  And the Dependent (measured) Variable is “me embarrassing you.”
(Haven’t totally decided on a data measurement tool here.  Maybe we create an embarrassment Likert scale, or just return your embarrassment as a boolean value. Either way.)
#Hashtag Always a bridesmaid..

A hypothesis is a statement that is meant to anticipate a potential outcome of an experiment. You can think of it as a prediction. Generally, scientists will structure their hypotheses using an “If/Then” format, to predict that IF “A” occurs, THEN “B” should follow as a result. 


Here is an example:


IF you invite me to your fancy wedding,

THEN I will embarrass you when I stick nerf darts all over my body and shove a lightsaber up my nose.


The Independent Variable here is “inviting me to your wedding.”  And the Dependent (measured) Variable is “me embarrassing you.”

(Haven’t totally decided on a data measurement tool here.  Maybe we create an embarrassment Likert scale, or just return your embarrassment as a boolean value. Either way.)

#Hashtag Always a bridesmaid..

(Source: amandalynferri)

manupillai said: there's a real beauty in benzene rings. would you agree?

You had me at twist-boat.

The Hiccup Cure to End All Hiccup Cures:
The best thing about getting the hiccups in a large group of people is that everyone will have a different embarrassing treatment for you to laugh at.  Since hiccups occur when your stomach is too full of food or booze, or when you are emotionally excited, you’re almost guaranteed to have the majority of your hiccup attacks in public.
But here is a Pro Tip:  Anything that you can do to desensitize the Vagus Nerve signal that runs from your brain to your diaphragm will stop your hiccups. This Vagus Nerve branches into the back of your mouth and esophagus as well as your diaphragm.  So this brings us to..
Vagus Nerve disruption tactic #1 - irritate another branch of the nerve.  
tickle the roof of your mouth with a cotton ball or your fingernails
swallow a tablespoon of dry granulated sugar


And if those don’t appeal to you feel free to try:
Vagus Nerve disruption tactic #2 - halt your breathing enough to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood, thereby desensitizing the nerve:
Hold your breath and take 20 tiny sips of water
Plug your ears and chug a bunch of water or
Whisper quietly into a hiccuping friend’s ear, “If you had a dinosaur in your backyard what color would it be?” 
This dinosaur one works (I promise it works!) because the question is so weird every hiccuping person automatically holds their breath while they consider it.  It is maybe the finest hiccup solution ever known.
So, to all my bloated, drunk, and/or emotionally excited friends:  it is my sincerest hope that knowing science, while not likely to make you any less bloated/drunk/excited, will at least rid you of the plague of hiccups! 

The Hiccup Cure to End All Hiccup Cures:

The best thing about getting the hiccups in a large group of people is that everyone will have a different embarrassing treatment for you to laugh at.  Since hiccups occur when your stomach is too full of food or booze, or when you are emotionally excited, you’re almost guaranteed to have the majority of your hiccup attacks in public.

But here is a Pro Tip:  Anything that you can do to desensitize the Vagus Nerve signal that runs from your brain to your diaphragm will stop your hiccups. This Vagus Nerve branches into the back of your mouth and esophagus as well as your diaphragm.  So this brings us to..

Vagus Nerve disruption tactic #1 - irritate another branch of the nerve.  

  • tickle the roof of your mouth with a cotton ball or your fingernails
  • swallow a tablespoon of dry granulated sugar
And if those don’t appeal to you feel free to try:

Vagus Nerve disruption tactic #2 - halt your breathing enough to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood, thereby desensitizing the nerve:

  • Hold your breath and take 20 tiny sips of water
  • Plug your ears and chug a bunch of water or
  • Whisper quietly into a hiccuping friend’s ear, “If you had a dinosaur in your backyard what color would it be?” 

This dinosaur one works (I promise it works!) because the question is so weird every hiccuping person automatically holds their breath while they consider it.  It is maybe the finest hiccup solution ever known.

So, to all my bloated, drunk, and/or emotionally excited friends:  it is my sincerest hope that knowing science, while not likely to make you any less bloated/drunk/excited, will at least rid you of the plague of hiccups! 

As a lady scientist of color, I have felt like the impostor in the room many many times. Here are two specific things that made me want to switch out of the hard sciences when I was in college.   I want to mention them because I suspect they play a part in the lack-of-women-and-minorities-in-STEM-fields issue:

#1 - Being met with incredulity when I said I didn’t know something in a science class.  Nothing made me doubt my own abilities more than this. I was so shocked by this behavior when I first started taking math and science courses in college that I straight-up stopped asking questions for about two years.  Ask me how much that set me back.

#2 - Asking someone about their class or their research, and they explained it in jargon that was obviously not part of my lexicon.  This always made me feel like I just didn’t have the brains or background necessary to pursue the higher-level science classes that I wanted to.  Also, it’s a dick move.  Also also, there is no slicker way to bore someone, so just don’t do it.  My advisor at Stanford, who was totally brilliant, always argued that it takes a really really smart scientist to communicate science in a way that is understandable to nonscientists.  That guy publishes like it’s his job (disclaimer: it is), so take heed friends!

The real point here is that most girls are less likely to do the
"what, you don’t know…?!?"
thing, or the
"I’m just researching the implications for three dimensional homology jargon and filtration of jargon jargon, it’s pretty simple"
act. So when I first heard people talking like this about classes I was interested in, it was new and scary and made me feel like I was not cut out for science or math.
It wasn’t until many years later that it hit me that everyone has to learn something for the first time at some point, and asking ridiculous questions usually aids and abets this learning process.



However, I’m not one to rant about a problem without proffering a possible solution, so here is my recommendation:
 Gentlemen (and ladies too!) in STEM fields, please, check your rhetorical behaviors, before you wreck the excitement and eagerness of women entering the field.  Additionally, people will like talking to you better if you dispense with the jargon.  I like you better already!  

(also shout-out to jtotheizzoe for posting this comic.  Love yr blog dude.)

As a lady scientist of color, I have felt like the impostor in the room many many times. Here are two specific things that made me want to switch out of the hard sciences when I was in college.   I want to mention them because I suspect they play a part in the lack-of-women-and-minorities-in-STEM-fields issue:

#1 - Being met with incredulity when I said I didn’t know something in a science class.  Nothing made me doubt my own abilities more than this. I was so shocked by this behavior when I first started taking math and science courses in college that I straight-up stopped asking questions for about two years.  Ask me how much that set me back.

#2 - Asking someone about their class or their research, and they explained it in jargon that was obviously not part of my lexicon.  This always made me feel like I just didn’t have the brains or background necessary to pursue the higher-level science classes that I wanted to.  Also, it’s a dick move.  Also also, there is no slicker way to bore someone, so just don’t do it.  My advisor at Stanford, who was totally brilliant, always argued that it takes a really really smart scientist to communicate science in a way that is understandable to nonscientists.  That guy publishes like it’s his job (disclaimer: it is), so take heed friends!

The real point here is that most girls are less likely to do the

  • "what, you don’t know…?!?"

thing, or the

  • "I’m just researching the implications for three dimensional homology jargon and filtration of jargon jargon, it’s pretty simple"

act. So when I first heard people talking like this about classes I was interested in, it was new and scary and made me feel like I was not cut out for science or math.

It wasn’t until many years later that it hit me that everyone has to learn something for the first time at some point, and asking ridiculous questions usually aids and abets this learning process.

However, I’m not one to rant about a problem without proffering a possible solution, so here is my recommendation:

 Gentlemen (and ladies too!) in STEM fields, please, check your rhetorical behaviors, before you wreck the excitement and eagerness of women entering the field.  Additionally, people will like talking to you better if you dispense with the jargon.  I like you better already!  

(also shout-out to jtotheizzoe for posting this comic.  Love yr blog dude.)

(via jtotheizzoe)

"For the first eight years of our marriage, [Michelle and I] were paying more in student loans than what we were paying for our mortgage. So we know what this is about.

And we were lucky to land good jobs with a steady income. But we only finished paying off our student loans—check this out, all right, I’m the President of the United States—we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago."

—President Obama in North Carolina today on why Congress has to act to prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling (via barackobama)

Shout-out to all the long-term students following this blog.