Science through my eyes: Rapid evolution!

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The yeast we study have a mutation that makes them build up a red pigment. But let them grow a little extra and sometimes they’ll end up changing color in parts of the colony! Mutations can build up really quickly, particularly if they’re adaptive. Every time I see this happen on my Petri dishes, I’m amazed both at nature and at the people who still don’t believe in evolution. Certainly, this is the micro-est of microevolution, but it happens in just a few weeks, under tightly controlled lab conditions. Seeing it on the small scale helps me relate a bit better to large-scale evolution, which is hard to conceptualize.

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Stream of Quirky Consciousness: Eye Contact

This post is in honor of National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Mental Health Month. They intend to break down the stigmas associated with mental illness and Quirks Who Care supports that mission!
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When I’m talking to you I’m never completely focused on what you’re saying. It’s not that I don’t care. I love the people in my life and want to learn about their lives, their struggles, their passions.

But my mind wanders. Where does it go?

Too many places for anyone’s comfort.

Am I making too much eye contact? How long have I been looking at their eyes? Is this creepy? Are we both thinking about this?

Ok, it’s time to look away. But where do I look? If I look at a different part of their body, they’ll think I’m noticing something about them or even….interested?! Though, how could I possibly know what they would think? I’m starting to recognize how little we can predict another person’s thought processes and emotions.

Ok I can look in the distance instead! Oh eep, they thought I noticed something there and looked where my eyes were too.

Eye contact is hard. But it’s not all I think about. Where else does my mind wander?

How am I supposed to be responding? What’s appropriate to ask? Am I supposed to ask follow up questions or will they tell me what they want me to know? How will they know I’m interested to hear whatever they’re willing to tell me if I don’t match each of their statements with a question?

Wait, am I asking too many questions? Did they just allude to a private issue and I took it upon myself to try to dig deeper? Or if I don’t ask more questions they’ll think I’m uncomfortable or unwilling to discuss!

Do my follow up questions even address the point they’re trying to make? Did they have a point they were trying to get to? Am I just saying something to fill the silence?

Oh here we go, here’s another moral failing of mine! I say something just because it’s silent. Fill the silence because eye contact is even more awkward when no one is speaking.

So I must change my behavior! Abort abort! Behave as a normal human does.

Wait, what am I doing? My policy is self acceptance, right? Why am I changing my behavior to be more normal?

But surely that’s a slippery slope! Fine, do everything that comes naturally to you. You’re going to go all the way back to middle school where you didn’t know how to communicate with people and had no friends.

Oh my Flying Spaghetti Monster how long have I been thinking and not paying attention? They’re still talking so maybe it’s ok. But wait, what’s that facial expression? Is that a reaction to something in their story? Or do they know I haven’t been paying attention?

No, no don’t think I don’t care. I care so much! I want to know what you care about, what drives you, what keeps you awake at night.

If I had to guess, it’s probably not the number of milliseconds our eyes were locked.

Should we gender our children?

I just started this discussion on the message boards of my online Psychology of Critical Thinking class, and I wanted to hear the thoughts of my friends. Please contribute any thoughts or ideas. Also, read Stone Butch Blues. And I believe the Sextravanga event will discuss this topic so go to that if you go to HSU.

Here goes:

From a very young age, we being to introduce gender to our children by dressing them in either pink or blue, providing toys for them based on either masculine or feminine ideals, referring to them as ‘him’ or ‘her’, suggesting to them that they should act in certain ways based on their gender (“come help Mommy in the kitchen,” or “Daddy’s going to teach you to throw a football”), and generally teaching them that there are important and fundamental differences between the sexes. There are many people now who suggest that gender is socially constructed, largely for the reasons that I named above.

People tend to assert that men are inherently better at sports than woman by pointing to the fact that most men tend to perform better at sports; the same people tend to say that women are more emotionally aware than men by pointing to the fact that they generally respond to emotional situations with more tact and understanding than man. But is this surprising, given that we teach men to value sports but hide their emotions, while we teach women to embrace their emotions but avoid unladylike practices like sports?

Now we’re in college, in an age where experimentation is fairly common, and there are some people who respond by being perturbed because it can be difficult to discern the gender of some people because of the androgynous way they dress. Is this a concern? Should we care what a person’s gender is?

Ultimately, are we responsible or irresponsible for gendering our children? Perhaps by teaching them how to ‘perform gender’, we are helping our child by hopefully ensuring they will be able to fit in in the future. But are we also holding back our society by not allowing future generations to embrace the fact that perhaps it’s time to think about gender in a new, more progressive way?