Friday, August 29, 2008

Last call and Science Stories worth sharing

The Weekend is coming and I know most of you will be tuning out and off for this glorious holiday weekend and end of summer. So before you head out, be sure to take a few moments to vote in the 2008 Black Weblog Awards. Voting ends Sunday and if you don't do it before close of business today, it won't get done. C'mon, I know you. I know me. So please give me a nod and vote for my blog in the Science/Tech Category. I sure do appreciate it.

An now a little science to whet your appetite and keep all of your friends adn relations in awe. Links to other science stories.

How Peacocks Got Their Colorful Tails -- evolution, sexual selection piece

Cervical Cancer Prevention Should Focus On Vaccinating Adolescent Girls, Report Says -- health up date - controversal topic.

Acute maternal stress during pregnancy linked to development of schizophrenia -- health issues, social issues

Why Are 'Mama' and 'Dada' a Baby's First Words? -- evolution

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Young Scientist Challenge - Finalists named

I posted the announcement for the Young Scientist Challenge back in May.

I spread the word a little among AfroSpear/Sphere members. Any word that any one we know participated? I'm curious.
Congrats to all of the hard-working students who participated and the teachers who assisted and mentored them.
Celebrate Science! Celebrate Young People's Acheivements!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Watching the DNC, but sick of the Obama Celebrity Comparisons

I'm watching the DNC and related news coverage and I'm enjoying it. But I am tired of the Obama-Celebrity references. Now, if a star shows up at the convention everyone is asking if that might hurt Obama. WHAT? All of this nonsese started with the McCain Ad on Obama as a Celebrity.

First of all, Obama isn’t a celebrity, he just happens to be very popular. The McCain camp is just jealous about all of the attention – from the media and from the droves of young people who like Obama. Haters.

Second, celebrities are citizens too. So they have every right to participate in the process. In fact, for many people they set an example of why civic engagement matters. Not that I think the masses need public figures to co-sign on things, but for more people than I like to admit, having a big star say something matters, means it matters. In this case, civic engagement matters.

Finally, I am SO disgusted by the selective memory of Republicans. First it was Clinton and drug use, but for George W it was a throw back to his heathen days. No big deal. Now Obama’s popularity means he can’t cut it. Hmmm, does anyone remember Ronald Reagan? He was a bona-fide movie star. And he was elected twice! Not only that, he is considered the quintessential Republican Leader.

Are you kidding me? The Republicans are playing the “celebrities can’t be leaders” card.

The Celebrity-Republican Hall of Fame

1. Ronald Reagan – Bedtime for Bonzo President

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger – the Governator

3. Sonny Bono – I Got You Babe Legislator

This tale needs to be neutralized right away. I’m sick of the media and conservative pundits making a big deal out of this.

Wake up people!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ebony Magazine ain't S***

Last spring, I was actually spurred to create this blog about Science and Education and Black Class issues because of a feature in Ebony Magazine - 100 Most Influential Blacks in America.

I was irritated by the AMAZING lack of intellectual representation, particularly of scientists and academics. So on May 9, 2007, I wrote a letter to the editor of Ebony Magazine and posted about the matter on this blog.

Here is my letter

Dear Editor,

I recently read the May 2007 issue that featured the "150 Most Influential Blacks in America". It was truly inspiring to see a list comprised of key people from the realms of business, education, public service and other sectors of society. It was a fine example of your magazine's objective to "profile successful African-American role models." But I was dismayed by the absence of the influential Blacks in Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET). In fact, of the entire list, only one scientist was listed, Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a Physicist. I also noticed that the list failed to include one or more categories that would recognize such professionals. Example categories might have been The Most Influential in "Industry", "Science & Research", Medicine & Biotechnology", and/or "Science, Engineering, & Technology". Even among the list of organization leaders, I was shocked by the absence of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). NSBE is not only a pre-eminent organization for black people pursuing a variety of technology and engineering careers, it is considered one of the largest and most influential college student organizations in the United States.

According to your website "Johnson Publishing Company is aimed at increasing African-Americans' pride in themselves by presenting their past and present achievements to America and to the world. This has been done by portraying the Black American experience in all its dynamics through the medium of printed words and images". Aren't the contributions of African-Americans as scientists and engineers important for shaping America and inspiring members of our community? Aren't these types of professionals worthy of portraying in printed word and images?

African-Americans are terribly under-represented in science, engineering, and technology fields. And I find it heartbreaking that a media giant such as Ebony Magazine "with over 12 million monthly readers that is full of information to enrich, encourage and enlighten the entire family; and offers fresh, exciting images and perspectives on the new Black America and remains the only Black general interest and major monthly magazine that covers all of Black America" does not take the time to inform its readership about "Influential Black Scientists and Engineers".

The lack of coverage of Black scientists and engineers, in media outlets and in your magazine in particular, sends a message to Black America that being a scientist or an engineer is an unimportant job and being one means that you are less valuable to society than say -- an entertainer. And nothing can be further from the truth. Science is the driving force of all modern life and Black Americans are apart of this story. We can't possibly hope to have more black scientists and engineers if the public is largely unaware of the existence of black scientists and engineers.

I would really like to see Ebony Magazine include more science and technology related stories in its line-up. It would also be a great treat and service to showcase Black Scientists, Engineers, and Mathematicians to your readers. Perhaps such positive stories about successful African-Americans might encourage more of our community to take pride in their academic success and close some of the education achievement gaps that exist.

I've also included a list of very important, very influential, and noteworthy Black Scientists for you to consider. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Dr. S. James Gates, Jr.: Physicist and Winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2006 Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award AAAS is the world's largest scientific society and this is a VERY important testament to his influence. Dr. Dawn Wright, Oceanographer.Learn more about her and her work here: Dr. Shirley Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. (She could have also been listed as an Influential Educator) and is also noted as the first woman to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Or any person featured on Delta SEE Radio: a science radio program produced by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. The Host, Dr. Dhyana Ziegler and Commentator, Dr. Shirley M. Malcom, are worthy candidates themselves for this category or the Education category. Or any of the scientists featured on the Science Update Spotlight on African-Americans section.

Here is their timely response to me on AUGUST 17, 2008.
Thank you for your email to the editors of Ebony magazine. We appreciate your interest and continued support of our magazine. While we do not have the ability to accept unsolicited material (stories, poetry, essays, etc.) we will make sure your information is passed along to the appropriate editor.Thanks again for you support.
Ebony Magazine

What the Hell!! OVER a year and a half and they respond. And it's a form response thinking I was submitting material...It was an E-di-tor-ial!

Fake journalism rag.

Science and Policy in US Politics

The Executive and Legislative Branches of our government are responsible for some important decisions concerning our lives, livelihood and our future. Science is everywhere, and there are dedicated scholars who spend their lives studying important phenonmena and events to increase out world body of knowledge. But how does this dense, nuanced information make it to the minds of the people who make the decisions and control the purse strings and regulatory strings? Another question, are our leaders making informed decisions are they shooting from the hip. Be informed about the state of scientific comprehension of our leaders

More news from AAAS - The President and Presidential Hopefuls and Science Policy Stands.

1. Report on Presidential Science Advice.
The Center for the Study of the Presidency has completed its report Presidential Leadership to Ensure Science and Technology in the Service of National Needs: A Report to the 2008 Candidates <> . The report contains a number of recommendations intended to be seriously considered by the presidential candidates' staffs before and during transition planning, in order to strengthen the S&T advice provided to the President and federal agencies.

2. The Candidates' Stances on Technology, Education.

a. Republican presidential candidate John McCain released a technology agenda <> last week that includes a permanent 10 percent tax credit on R&D wages, expansion of the H1-B visa program for foreign guest workers, and tax breaks for companies that give high-speed Internet access to low-income customers. McCain also said he will "strive to ensure that Administration appointees across the government have adequate experience and understanding of science, technology and innovation."

b. Democrat Barack Obama, who released his technology program <> in November 2007, has said he also wants to make the R&D tax credit permanent; reform the immigration process to increase the number of permanent visas issued to foreign skilled workers; and create a national "chief technology officer" to ensure that all federal agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century.

c. Last week, the McCain camp also released its agenda for higher education <> . The policy includes a call for the simplification of higher education tax benefits and federal financial aid programs, and the elimination of earmarks in federally funded research.

d. In his education policy, Obama also proposes <> to simplify the process of applying for federal financial aid and calls for a universal, refundable tax credit to ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is free for most Americans.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

State of Science Education Today

Below is a letter to Members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) about the State of Science Education: The Education of Future Scientists by Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO of the largest professional society of physical & natural scientists, engineers, and social scientists.

Sciene and Science Education are important. Segments of society that are under-educated in science and math will not be able to fully participate (and advocate for themselves) in 21st century dynamics. Our health, food supply, living situations, medical care and even job opportunties are becoming more sophisticated and steeped in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) advancement.


We are living in a time when science and technology are embedded in every aspect of modern life, and therefore we must make sure that all students have familiarity with and a strong grounding in the nature of science and its core concepts. In addition, to assure a future of continuing scientific innovation, educators must continue to draw talented students into the science profession.

AAAS has had an array of direct impacts on how science is taught through our
Project 2061, which laid the groundwork for science education standards, created benchmarks for science literacy, and has ongoing efforts to reform curriculum, instruction, and assessment. A Japanese translation of educational concepts for science literacy, workshops for teachers on how to use our Atlas of Science Literacy, and a field test of assessment tools for use in middle school classrooms are a few examples of Project 2061's recent efforts.

We further promote quality science education through
Science NetLinks and its nearly 500 complete standards-based science lessons -- all freely accessible on the web. We engage budding scientists with radio programs, weekly online stories, events for families, and our Kinetic City after-school program. AAAS also recently helped create new science, mathematics, and technology resources for elected school board members across the United States. In addition, 48 middle-grade science and math teachers in Washington, D.C., recently earned master's degrees from The George Washington University in a free, three-year program held at AAAS.

But promoting science literacy and quality education is not enough to guarantee a new crop of professional scientists. We also must educate students about science career opportunities. AAAS has programs to help underrepresented minorities and students with disabilities enter the science work force. In addition, our
Science Careers website is the most comprehensive resource for career advice and job openings.

Your AAAS membership helps improve science education. And many of you also share your scientific expertise by getting involved with local schools and youth groups, and by becoming mentors to the future's scientists. Many thanks for your participation and your support.


Alan I. Leshner, CEO, AAAS

Monday, August 18, 2008

And the Nominees are.....Black Weblog Awards - I made the 1st cut

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!

Wow, I am so honored and grateful to the blog community and all of my blog readers -(I wish I knew who all of you were) for nominating this blog for the category - Best Science/Technology Blog. Here is the list of all finalists in 30 categories.
I really appreciate it. I'm adding the vote badge and finalist badge on the side.
Each category will have two winners. The top three most nominated blogs in each category will become finalists (in my category 5, I don't know who that happened) which the voting public will vote on via the finalist form. Our panel of judges will select their favorites (ranked on a weighted system) from the entire pool of nominees. These will all take place from August 17-31.

A couple of things to keep in mind.
1. You must submit your name and email address before voting. No ballot stuffing. If you try to vote multiply using the same email address the subsequent ballots get thrown out.
2. The final voting form will only accept your vote when you vote in EACH category. Got to vote in each one. That's just how they do it.
The winners will be announced on September 4.
Thanks again!
The Urban Scientist.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'm on facebook

One might think that since I promote enhanced STEM education and application that I
would have joined Facebook a long time ago. I resisted. I though all social networking sites were the same (e.g. BlackPlanet, Myspace). I noticed that all of my post end with a "share on facbook link". I didn't put that there on purpose. But I can take a hint. But facebook is more conservative and academic. I like that. No gaudy wallpapers or music blasting. Just nice simple texts and graphics....and you can shut that stuff off if you like.

Plus, I didn't want to learn anything new, and get all caught up. I've been getting invitations to join LinkedIn and Twitter. Thanks for the invite, but for now, I'll hold tight. This is enough for now.
So, I joined. It's interesting.
Please join me on facebook and sign up to be my friend, offer comments, and ask a science question.

Check me out!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Science Vocab: Sexual Selection

Sexual Selection is the umbrella term for all of those natural forces that influence and shape animal sexual and reproductive habits and outcomes. It is a sub-set of natural selection that deals with one and only theme – SEX. Biologically speaking, you’re only a winner if you successfully reproduce and the one who leaves the most number of healthy and viable offspring.

The truth is there is much similarity between human social behavior and that of our other animal kingdom cousins. This seems especially true when I think about mating behaviors (courtship, sex, and relationship habits). I have read several papers on the subject of sexual selections and thought to myself … “Dang, that sounds an awful lot like the relationship games people play.” And what’s more, you probably know (and act out) a lot more about sexual selection than you ever realized.

Related terms: Intra-sexual Selection and Inter-sexual Selection

Intra means within, in this case the competition of members of the same-sex to get the attentions and affections of an opposite sex mate. Typically, males of the species are the focus of scientific studies of intra-sexual selection. Think back to your science lessons or National Geographic Specials…..
Two male rams, broad and large in size, with impressive horns on their heads are stalking and sizing each other up, then they bolt in a run and Clash! Bump heads with one another. It continues until a winner is determined. The prize: the chance to mate with the female goats and sire the offspring of next season. But there is also female-female competition, but it usually less dramatic.

Inter means between, in this case how the sexes choose one another. In the case of our National Geographic rams, the female goats can decide they like the winner or the loser of the battle or some other male altogether.

So what about us…
Imagine the scene… A night club, music is hot the dance floor is crowded, lots of lovely people in the house. A group of guys are hanging out together and they spot a group of girlfriends kicking it too. Assuming everyone is available for dating here’s what’s happening….

Intra-sexual Selection: The guys, though friends, are all trying to figure out which one of them will probably step up first and what type of game he’ll put down. And these guys are competing with every other guy in the club, too – not just their friends. You’ve got to figure out if it’s worth it and when to step up, check your breath, your wallet, and your rap. The Ladies are doing the same thing and in this case comparing themselves (physically) to every woman in club – adjusting herself, checking makeup, etc. The signals she sends matters and the signals other women send matter. It’s not a big push-and-shove, but it’s a jungle out there.
Basically each person is competing, whether directly or indirectly with every other person in the club of the same sex. Basically, everyone is hoping to get noticed or make eye-contact, share a glance and a conversation that might lead to more.

Inter-sexual Selection:
After all of the posing and posturing and adjusting you finally step to that guy or girl. You chose them, but will they choose you…or ask about your friend? That’s inter-sexual selection.

From now on, I’ll routinely share more science info about Sexual Selection and related vocabulary.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Countdown to Blog Action Day on Poverty - Oct. 15

Blog Action Day Launches!

The 2008 campaign has officially begun. This year our theme is "Poverty" and the encouraging bloggers around the world to once again explore this issue on their blogs on October 15th.
I routinely blog about socioeconomic issues and poverty so I am very happy to participate in this Blog Action Day. I hope you will, too.

Last year's theme was the Environment.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wanted: Science Students

I was talking to a colleague the other day about getting some graduate students in his lab. He's a new faculty member at a rather large, very nice public university. He has some funding, is a great researcher, very personable - but doesn't have any students.

Now, going to graduate school (in science) is a bit of a random shuffle. It's not like Business grad school where you're taking more of the same classes, except it's harder and fast-paced. Science is different because of the demands of independent research, you just don't "enroll somewhere". It's a process. You have to come in half-way knowing Whay you want to do and How to do it. It's all about the networks -- who recommended you and why do want to work with this professor? But his angst was -how to find students and at least make a pitch to them.

I thought, if I had the academic position of my dreams - at ann undergrad college - I sure could address his need. I want to teach undergrads and lead small teams of them in mini-research projects. I would be able to train them in basic science research, help them figure how things are done, encourage them to consider grad school - even introduce them to my colleagues (whom I went to grad school with) and get them in some pretty prestigious labs. In other words, I'd be the head of a prep school for future scientists. And considering my personal enthusiasm for reaching out to students of color, my well-prepared, highly-recommended students would be gems in ANY science grad school department.

Then I thought, "Why aren't colleges scouting academic talent the way athletic departments are doing?" The arena exists...There are AP tests, magnet schools, and science & engineering competitions (e.g. NSBE and Intel) that point out who the brightest science and math high school scholars are. Why aren't College Professors trolling around the local school districts and state science fair competitions? We're just completely sleeping on some potentionally great talent... Maybe then we won't be wondering - Where are the grad students?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

NSF funds Engineering Scholarships

I received a link to this article from a blog reader about a new National Science Foundation funded scholarship program at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. The new scholarship program benefits the Engineering Program at this University: The article - NSF funding engineering at SIUE.

This is a great thing and especially rare. For the most part, NSF primarily throws money at science faculty (professors and departments) and at graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. NSF does offer a lot incentives and money for summer programs for undergrads, but college scholarships for undergrads --- I'd never heard of it before today -- and I am not ashamed to admit I have received a huge chunk of NSF money!

But this is very exciting....So, if you're a college-bound student interested in Engineering, you should definitely consider applying to this university and apply for this very lucrative scholarship. NSBE people, are you tuned in?

Good luck.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Scraping your way out of poverty

What does it take to get out of poverty and live in the land of self-sustaining middle-income level? I don’t know. I’m convinced it is all about tenacious self-determination and luck.

But a host of experts and other concerned people propose a suite of answers. I was quite surprised to come across a posting in ScienceBlog about economics and poverty. But it is an interesting post: Job growth not the only factor in reducing poverty in large metro areas. According to a study by researchers at Ohio State University and Oklahoma State University, despite an increase in the number of jobs created during the 1990s, many people living in large metro areas across the United States failed to find jobs. The study suggests that it may be easier for people living in small metropolitan areas to get out of poverty than it is for those living in large metro areas. Hmm. Is this about competition and marketing forces?

I was also flipping channels and watching CSPAN when I came across Star Parker of the Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education. It is a Washington, DC based think tank (very conservative leaning) that addresses the moral and practical obstacles of poverty elimination. I’m still not sure where I stand. She makes a lot of valid points, but don’t buy that very conservative agendas hold the best answers to poverty elimination any more than liberal agendas did. Plus, I’m biased. Any organization that thinks Reagan was such a great leader when it comes to economics and poverty-elimination is just crack-smoking to me. In my book, Reagan is the devil.

Finally, my blog friend at Education and Class has some great recent posts about this topic.
Learning Your Way Into the Middle Class? Which examines this idea of how the (public) education system plays a critical role in preparing our young citizens to be productive contributing members of society? Without an adequate education (what does that mean nowadays?) then citizens can’t compete for ‘good’ jobs and these ‘good, middle-class-level’ jobs are taken to other countries or given to ‘other people’. Personally, I think education makes a difference – whether it’s formal or informal. Basically, upwardly mobile jobs aren’t given to those who perform rote, non-thinking, unspecialized duties. To set yourself apart and to be on the “fast track” you’ve got to be a thinker AND a doer – one who can cease opportunity and create it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

2008 Black Weblog Awards Nominations are Open

The 2008 Black Weblog Awards is back for a fourth year, bringing you the recognition of the best and brightest in the Black blogosphere.
I am respectfully requesting that you, my readers, NOMINATE my blog! I cannot nominate or vote for myself, so I am depending on you. There are 30 different categories.
I am requesting that you nominate me for:

23. Best Science/Technology Blog
This category is for blogs which feature content about biology, chemistry, physics, technology, the Internet, and the various realms of science.
SES: Science, Education, & Society
30. Blog to Watch
This category highlights the best “undiscovered” blog in the blogosphere; keep your eye on this one! This is for that great blog that not everyone knows about…but should!
SES: Science, Education, and Society
I am supporting other blogs for the following categories. Please check them out.

4. Best Blog Post Series
This category is for a series of posts in a blog about a particular topic. Posts can be fiction or non-fiction, but post series must be linked by a common and identifiable theme with the ability to skip forward or backwards through the series (for judging purposes). Don't make us have to hunt for them.
The Black Snob – Black Conservatives Series

7. Best Culture Blog
This category is for blogs which talk about Black culture and/or the African diaspora in a multifaceted and dynamic way.
Young Black Professional Guide
8. Best Faith-Based Blog
This category is for blogs which feature unique religious and spiritual content. Any religion counts.
Just B That

11. Best Gossip Blog
This category is for blogs that focus on satire and lampooning of pop culture and celebrities for entertainment purposes. Basically, if your blog could pass for Extra, the Insider, or Entertainment Tonight, that's what this category is for.
Mrs. Grapevine

12. Best Group Blog
This category is for a single blog which is updated by a group of people (two or more people). This blog can be about any topic. Posts must indicate who the author is for each one; it cannot be one person masquerading as different people (for judging purposes).
Young Black Professional Guide

14. Best Humor Blog
This category is for humor blogs or blogs which feature humorous content.
Secret Council of American Negroes (SCAN)

18. Best New Blog
This category is for blogs of any topic which have been started on or after September 1, 2007. We will check your archives.
Because I Said So
19. Best Personal Blog ***UPDATED***
This category is for blogs which feature the day-to-day happenings and opinions of the author. Blogs do not have to adhere to a specific theme.
Raw Dawg Buffalo (Dude, you know your spelling be killing me.....But I am loving your new music on the page. Thanks for all of the LOVE.)
24. Best Sports/Recreation Blog
This category is for blogs which discuss sports and sports players.
Sports on My Mind

29. Blog of the Year
This category is pretty self-explanatory; the blog of the year has it all: great writing, frequent posts, active comments, and a strong reader base.
Electronic Village

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cross Post: Towards Solving the Math-Science Achievement Gap - Eddie Griffin

Fellow AfroSpear Member and Educator, Brother Eddie Griffin has written a position paper about the sad statistics concerning the Math-Science Achievement gap here in this nation. Students of color are WAY behind their white classmates in most subjects and at every level. And in math and science education, the gap is more like a chasm. And class (socioeconomics) pla s a big part. "Wealthier" school districts just have better resources and the students benefit. It's time that those of us who care about these issues participate - in one way or another.

Please be sure to check out his post: Towards Solving the Math-Science Achievement Gap. I especially like his links to Tutorials/Virtual Education Tools on various math and science subjects.

Other related posts, by me, on this t0pic.
Advancing our Scientific Prowess
Government Funded Research on African-American Children - Math & Science Scores improve
Africa Day - The Role of Math & Science in Promoting the Continent's Prosperity
Assertive STEM Education Training Programs may prove beneficial