Science Knowledge

The rules of engagement – sexuality

The 2013 Guidelines for Coming Out.

So, Jodie Foster came out. Or didn’t. It seems there is some idea of what coming out should look like, some wording that is necessary to meet a standard. Odd, the notoriously private Ms Foster, who made a speech that included a yearning plea for privacy’s necessity, is chided for not beetling this standard.

Who sets this standard? Who decides? Why must sexuality, coming out, or any related issue conform to rules? Consenting adults make choices. Healthy relationships come in so many forms.

And by healthy, I do not mean sick, controlling, violent power plays of rape and force. I do know people who are into BDSM, and in that scene, the concept of consenting adults is vital to it being conducted. It does not always succeed, but the intention is there, and that is worthy of respecting, again, human sexuality is complex. But when force is used on people without consent, or coercion, bullying, blackmail – all the vile variations that end up with someone sick their stomach in fear and or revulsion doing what they would not choose to do – then that is a vileness that is to be purged from any healthy society. And yes, I know wherein I speak on that, too:(

I have loved people. Their gender has changed depending on the person. I do not claim to be anything but myself. I do not think of myself as anything such as gay or straight or bi. Sexuality is too fluid to me; to me, it has always been about the mind. I found (after some erroneous attempts to be like other people), that I could not enjoy partners whose mind I did not respect. That I felt almost repulsed by people who I did not feel a warm connection to. That did not mean I had to be in love, but that I felt a connection to them. This seems to me to be normal. The shape that mind, that person came in, was thus irrelevant. People have such different shapes after all – tall, short, thin, round, male, female…

I also found I could have sexual relations with friends, a warm loving connection that required nothing more. I also found that very few others could experience that without complication, so I learned not to pursue that side of myself. We are, after all, a society with some strange attitudes to sexuality. Restrictions and rules that often have zero validity, or some that do but for the wrong reasons, unnecessary with better understanding and healthier outlooks. But that is what it is, and one must function responsibly to survive comfortably. I stand by my code of consenting adults, and do no harm. I have not always succeeded with the latter, but cannot imagine doing other than the former. However, I probably (due to circumstances of upbringing) regarded myself as adult long before I technically was. Je ne regrete rien – probably spelt wrong, French lessons being, like so much else, a very, very long time ago:)

While i make the point that attraction resides in the person, I can add that bodies can be broken or different, and still be sexual and attractive. Disabled people have needs, and we, as a society, are seemingly terrified of that. I have had disabled partners because of their gorgeous minds – their bodies became attractive in my eyes accordingly. I am disabled, and still have a sexuality to my nature. We who are disabled are not dead, after all.

I have a daughter who came out in the expected fashion. She did not angst about it, as she was aware neither her father or I would be concerned. I did, however, point out that her siblings had not felt the need to inform me, and I would welcome any partner she chose to introduce me to if they were good to and for her (sorry, abuse may kids, your form fails to matter, you are persona non grata). She laughed and said we gave her nothing for therapy;) but she knows me enough to understand, I was not rejected her announcement, just sad that the difference was needed to be commented on. I wouldn’t blink if one of my offspring bought home a same sex partner without the announcement, as long as they were making my child happy.

And that, after all, is the point. Life is a sweet, rapid blip. One fails to know how rapid as a teenager, when time can drag so heavily. But oh, how it speeds as one gets older, and every cliche about feeling young despite one’s body comes true. And here we are again, despite one’s body, feeling things. There it is. That’s what love is. We fall in love with unsuitable people, on spite of ourselves. We are attracted to the wrong people, in spite of ourselves. The heart and body (really the mind and body) will feel what they feel, for complex hormonal, sociological, genetic, historical, and chemical reasons. But I wish we could acknowledge that, teach healthy self respect for ourselves and each other early on, so that one’s sexuality is merely an aspect of oneself like hair colour (and for me, that changes in shades of red for decades now;) ). That one does not need to fear bullying for coming out, as why would one need to come out when normality is healthy respect for all the glorious shades of human sexuality, of consenting adults in healthy relationships?

By the way, let me end on this note. Oh, Ms Foster. I have so had the biggest crush on you since Contact. You fought for that project, you understood it, you knew Sagan’s work. What is not to crush on? An amazing woman with a sharp mind. Fiercely loyal, intellectual. Sigh. Yep. Crush inevitable.

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The Milky Way and the lighthouse

James Burke @rigb_science #connections

James Burke @rigb_science #connections (Photo credit: Toastwife)

Cover of "Cosmos"

Cover of Cosmos

Here we stand on the shores of a cosmic ocean. This (or something pretty close) is from the first episode of Cosmos, that I watched as an entranced sleepy 14 year old, up very late to catch every last resonant image, every last amazing fact (Hypatia, how had I not known of thee? Voyager, small ships of knowledge, the ancestors of all chip bound explorers of the local seas), of that seminal awakening for many of my generation.

Connections was also a hypnotic ride (please, I urge you, spend hours of delight watching every episode on YouTube – sometimes, the Internet is beyond bounteous).

I am thrilled Neil deGrasse Tyson is doing a new version of Cosmos, a fitting heir to the magic of Carl Sagan. Phil Plait is blogging over at Slate these days, and I am delighted to see his audience increase. He, too is, an heir to Sagan – we need more popularisers of science, men and women who can convey the joy and passion of science.

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NA...

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I knew, at 14, there could be no higher calling than scientific pursuits – astronomy would be preferable, but that turned out to be because I had not met my true (career) love – computing. That was my homecoming. But my love of science, all the sciences, from the atomic and subatomic awe inspiring and mind boggling worlds (such brave new (tiny) worlds that have such wonders), to the macro, the Universe, or universes, dimensions and galaxies, of physics and astronomy and on (brave enormous worlds etc). Of the earth sciences, of biology, of technological sciences. Of the wonder of engineering, and again, back to my discipline – computer science – the field of dreams. If you build it he (/she/they) will come, indeed…

We take dreams, ideas, thoughts, and strive to create realities of software and hardware. We create futures. We think in art and colour and movement, of usage and layout and need. If you can think of a more satisfying career, good for you. I cannot, and I can never recommend it highly enough.

Part of Carl Sagan with a model of the Viking ...

Part of Carl Sagan with a model of the Viking lander. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From a 14 year old girl having her heart ache with the wonder and beauty of knowledge to a 45 year old woman still prone to joy and wonder at it all, I owe Carl Sagan such a thank you – for he inspired me as he inspired so many others. He showed me possibilities, and I had to follow the trail thereon.

From the shores of the cosmic ocean to my small light of knowledge, all scientists strive to claim a little more land in H.G. Wells’ ‘sea of ignorance’, as he exhorts every generation take up its responsibility to reclaim more land from it. Doing my best, Mr Wells. Doing my best, Mr Sagan.

The Milky Way and the lighthouse: photos from Australia.

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Stand back – Serval does science!

Besides being my amazing co-founder and brains trust inspiration at The Serval Project,

An illustration of a character from a story; a...

Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen does a regular science spot on local radio. This episode involved an experiment that he roped my bloke, aka our Hardware and Systems guru, Lyn Stephens, into assisting with. Here is the video – you get to hear Dr Paul, and see my bloke in his breakout role as mad scientist assistance Igor clone:)

Sonya’s imploding 44-gallon drum – ABC Adelaide – Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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The right to life – I have it.

The Way It Was | Mother Jones.

This article has made me angry. So angry, i am going to open very far too fresh wounds.

I don’t miscarry. Five times, the fetus died. Five times, this longed for child died before twenty weeks. Some early, two, very very late.

Once I gave birth to a little girl I grieved over, too tiny and perfect for life.

The rest of the time, I had a D&C. The fetus, long dead, had to be removed, as my body was not letting go, as my heart was not. It was killing me. I could have died of septicaemia.

With the law changes in the US, I WOULD have died. My subsequent miracles, my youngest children, never born. My equally cherished older children motherless too soon.

The pious arrogance of the anti abortionists. If they are all so pro life, why are they so willing to sacrifice mine? And my youngest two children, who would not have even had a chance to live? 

And all the women who must make the terrible, awful choice, whether the fetus is viable or not, to end a pregnancy. What cruelty is there in choosing for them. Choosing a way of vast expense and pain. Of almost certain death at the hand of backyard butchers. For these desperate women, often trapped in violence and poverty, frequently trying to protect other already born children, unable to access affordable contraception with the obscene lottery of health insurance (unless for the gift of Planned Parenthood, who do far more to prevent unwanted pregnancies than to end them), or perhaps young, vulnerable and scared, with parents who would not understand, or who would rage and throw them out, or with the consequence of death and revilement from their community, hard lined with religious intolerance, mocking the very words of their religious ethos – how dare ANYONE condemn women to this? Their children left motherless, often already fatherless, consigned to foster homes that may scar them in too many ways. The women dead or broken, from one awful episode left unable then to ever have that child they may have wished more than anything they could have had, who perhaps died, or meant the death of them? Or that they could have had if older, supported, or not abused?

People like these so called right to lifers make me sick with their sanctimonious hypocrisy. They seek only to preserve the narrow definition of life. All life is not sacred to them. ONly that which gestates. 

Those people have blood of far more on their hands than any abortionist. Those people are murderers far more vile.

Happy Birthday to the amazing Marie Curie

Many of you may have noticed that today’s Google Doodle honors famed physicist and chemist Marie Curie, in celebration of her birthday. But this year also marks the centennial of her second Nobel Prize. (It bears mentioning that Curie was not only the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, she is also the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person ever to win in multiple sciences.)

via An insightful look at the life and work of Marie Curie.

The magic of reality…

Also – Pluto has a twin, aww, congrats and welcome Eris:)

Eris and its moon. Surface details are fiction...

Image via Wikipedia

(I am fond of Pluto, and have a tshirt that i wear a lot, that says ‘Don’t worry Pluto, I’m not a planet either’)

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The cult of the individual : knowledge is now based on opinion

Too many of us seem to think that learning from a book, or through research in a university laboratory, makes you worthy of fear or disdain, rather than respect. They think it is better to “go with your gut”, or “learn through experience” than listen to someone who probably knows far better.

via FOOI #11: Listen to the experts, they know their stuff | Article | The Punch.

Love a world where Dance Your PhD exists

Wonderful, marvellous – should i consider this for my upcoming PhD DESPITE Kermit the wonder wheelchair, or BECAUSE of Kermit?;)

For the last four years, scientists from around the world have been participating in Science’s Dance Your PhD contest. The rules of the competition are simple: convey your graduate work in the form of interpretive dance. Creativity will win you points, as will scientific merit; but only by combining the two do you stand to win a spot in the annals of Dance Your PhD history.

via Check out the winners of this year’s Dance Your PhD Competition!.

How sugar molecules secretly shaped human evolution

Sugar. How it has changed us. There is a speech i cherish from the seventh Doctor Who, storyline Remembrance of the Daleks, (the anniversary episode) which goes :
JOHN: Hmm? Your tea. Sugar?
DOCTOR: Ah. A decision. Would it make any difference?
JOHN: It would make your tea sweet.
DOCTOR: Yes, but beyond the confines of my tastebuds, would it make any difference?
JOHN: Not really.
DOCTOR: But
JOHN: Yeah?
DOCTOR: What if I could control people’s tastebuds? What if I decided that no one would take sugar? That’d make a difference to those who sell the sugar and those that cut the cane.
JOHN: My father, he was a cane cutter.
DOCTOR: Exactly. Now, if no one had used sugar, your father wouldn’t have been a cane cutter.
JOHN: If this sugar thing had never started, my great-grandfather wouldn’t have been kidnapped, chained up, and sold in Kingston in the first place. I’d be a African.
DOCTOR: See? Every great decision creates ripples, like a huge boulder dropped in a lake. The ripples merge, rebound off the banks in unforeseeable ways. The heavier the decision, the larger the waves, the more uncertain the consequences.
JOHN: Life’s like that. Best thing is just to get on with it.

See? Life’s like that, and as it turns out, more than we think.

Three million years ago, a gene mutation switched off a sugar-making enzyme in early hominids. Our ancestors actually became unable to breed with those who still had the enzyme, possibly causing the emergence of our evolutionary grandparent, Homo erectus.

via How sugar molecules secretly shaped human evolution.