Thursday, July 31, 2008

Please save me from ABD Purgatory

I am officially shooting a flare and spelling out S.O.S. is large letters across the sand. I am lost and confused and need rescuing. My statistics are kiling me -- an not softly. The more I think I understand and I know what to do, I slip deeper into the quicksand. (Are you loving the metaphors?)

Good news:
- I am DONE collecting data. That is done, subjects are gone, can't do any more trials or experiments.
- I data set has been checked and verified. All missing points, questionable blocks, etc have been addresed.

what the hell does it mean?
PCA, factor analysis, regressions, correlations. I'm in over my head.

HELP !!!

Stats suck.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why Did I Become a Scientist?

Why Did I Become a Scientist?

I discovered, quite by accident, that science allowed me to direct my own path. I'm interested in lots of questions about the natural world. During my undergraduate years, I asked all of my science professors "Why is that?" "How does that happen?" Yes, they were able to answer most of my questions, but what I learned in graduate school - from my professors - was how to answer my own questions. I find that very empowering. I know of very few professional fields were it is perfectly acceptable to pursue your own interests - for pay.

I believe my prompt into science began even as a child. I loved being outside and being a rather precocious child, I was very observant of the landscape. But what I consider my catalyzing experience was the arrival of Haley's Comet in 1984. I was mesmerized by the sky. My mother took me to the Planetarium. I checked out books. I was just so excited about this once-in-a-lifetime cosmic event that I even scribbled fake constellations on my school notebooks. In junior high, I went on a science trip to the Ozark Mountains and I was wide-eyed! Stalactites and Stalagmites were my new favorite words. By age 13, it was official. I was hooked on everything science.
Now my interest in science is beyond science itself. I enjoy outreach. That's why I blog. Seldom does the public get the opportunity to see Black scientists. Some people don't even know of the existence of scientists that aren't European or Asian. Perhaps that is why so many Black youth don't see science careers as real opportunities for themselves. But science offers many opportunities.
Below are links to two short videos from AAAS Science Careers featuring two Black Scientists about why they became scientists. Please enjoy and feel free to share your story.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I love my haters. They think about me all of the time.

Here is my occasional political rant.

What's up with all of the conservatives whining about Obama getting so much [positive] press coverage? McCain and others challenged that he hadn't travelled to the war zones or Europe and that Obama doesn't seem like he's ready to take the reigns on the first day.

Now, the media is following Obama like the Papparazzi. Iraqis, US soldiers abroad, and Europeans, heck, even Gen. Petraus is all ga ga over Barack. They love him! And McCain disembarks with a lone reporter to greet him....Hater.

And now that he is coming off as so confident and professional, they are accusing him of acting presumptive -- "He isn't the President yet. He shouldn't be acting that way, like he has it already." Haters!

One more thing -- The Patriotism of the McCains.

Anheuser-Busch was recently taken over by a European company, In-Bev of Belgium. I don't drink AB products (voluntarily) but I liked AB as a brand and as a symbol of American business. They overcame prohibition and built a powerful brand. And thanks to a very weak American economy a foreign company was able to buy it all out - lock, stock, and barrell - literally.

While Barack and other Democrat spoke against the problem, McCain was quiet. In fact his wife earned a mint.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Energy Crisis and Transportation Addiction

From the TreeHugger article: We Don't Have an Energy Crisis, We Have a Transportation Crisis
by Lloyd Alter. Most of our (US) petroleum is for transportation purposes. If we modify our transportation habits, our gas crisis might be better managed.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Environmental Programs in China Successful, Study Finds

Economic growth and environmental resourcefulness can co-exist. According to a recent report by the National Science Foundation, Environmental Programs in China Successful, Study Finds.

It is not easy (and never will be) to marry the interests and concerns of strict conservationists and strict capitalists, but educated compromise is possible...and is necessary for a 21st century (and beyond) survival.

Here are some excerpts:

Two of the world's largest environmental programs in China are generally successful, although key reforms could transform them into a model for the rest of the world, according to research results published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

These results illustrate the benefits of basic research on coupled natural and human systems," said Thomas Baerwald, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences, which funded the research along with NSF's Directorates for Geosciences and Biological Sciences. "In examining two major Chinese environmental programs, Liu and colleagues have provided generalizable knowledge regarding the complex ways policies affect interactions between natural and human systems.

"They also have generated specific information and insights that will assist Chinese policy makers--as well as policy makers in other nations--to design more effective programs to preserve the environment."

Please be sure to check out the full report.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Is it really about Sounding Black?

The Black Blog Buzz is all about a recent social science research study about Speech Patterns and Wage Inequalities in the US work place, by Dr. Jeffry Grogger at the University of Chicago.

I like how Cobb framed the discussion as an ability/inability to Code Switch. Code switching is an important tactic among ambitious people (race, class, and nationally doesn't matter). And in my interactions with urban youth and young adults, I believe lacking this skill frustrates their lives, especially when they encounter civil servants like police, social workers, or even customer service personally at stores and service providers.

One commenter on YPB Guide thought this study was a waste of time and energy, but as noted by the author, though this subject has received much attention there has never been an empirical analysis of the phenomenon. In fact, this study "represents the first attempt to determine empirically whether native-language differences between blacks and whites help explain racial wage differences." That is a big deal. To not only document but demonstrate how perceived differences in people, based on language patterns, can have a big impact on their employment status.

Now, I've always thought that the idea of 'sounding black' had more to do with the sound and rhythm of the speaker's voice. But according to linguistic standards there are variants of speech based on indices, one called Standard American English (SAE) and African-American English (AAE). Both are characterized by several several variables including syntax, grammar rules, phonology, and acoustics - basically, at every linguistic level.

The author had recordings of young people being interviewed for a summer program. There were a team of volunteers who listened to the recordings and were asked to indicate which group (black or white) they think the caller belonged to. They were also asked to indicate the speaker's sex, education level, and region of origin they thought he/she belonged to.

Listeners were able to accurately identify the sex of the speakers (98%). 84% of white speakers were accurately identified and 77% of black speakers were accurately identified by the listeners. The listeners were not able to identify education level of speakers and did not do well at identifying the region of origin of speakers, either.

The author then applies a statistical model and asks - Could these perceived differences in race, based on language impact wage differences between these groups. So the rest of the paper explores how such perceptions can the reason for wage inequalities between these groups. Though I'm not about to get into all of the statistical modelling stuff, it is an interesting thing to connect together. Could speech be a basis for discrimination? It certainly has been demonstrated in housing discrimination.

But a better question is: What do we do with this information? Help people speak better SAE or how to code switch or help people understand that using AAE doesn't mean you less intelligent, productive or profession? I think a little of all three.