02 March 2015

Better thoughts

During my weird week, I also had a couple signs of beauty.  Both from my nieces, and one in the midst of sadness.  If I haven't reminded you before: I've got great nieces!

First, from my niece Kristen, whom you've heard from before, an observation about science/scientists:
Somehow I was chosen as one of two students who got to share dinner at an excellent Cuban place (which the school paid for) with most of the chemistry professors and the person who gave a presentation to us tonight about his job as an environmental consultant. So much knowledge was tossed around at the dinner table oh my gosh I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such an interesting group of people. I also feel really proud to be going to a school where the professors and students can eat and be nerds together like one happy dork family :'D
Second, following the death of Leonard Nimoy (best known as Spock, from Star Trek), my other niece Madeline:
Losing our beloved Mr. Spock left me with an empty part of my heart, being that my best friend and I call each other Kirk and Spock. In the words of that same friend we must not think of the fact he is gone, but to remember all of the good times we had with him.
Both are excellent thoughts.  I can truly see Kristen's dinner table conversation, knowledge being tossed around.  That's what any of my good dinners at scientific meetings are like.  The knowledge sometimes looks like a hacky sack being kicked around.  Except in these, we each take a bit out, and put a bit in and kick it on around the table. Her comment shows exactly why she was chosen to be at the table.  (No, I'm not a biased uncle!  Simple facts from an unbiased scientist :-)

Mr. Spock is a little divided, but division was essential to his character.  I've mentioned before about science's Spock problem.  One side of the character was unemotional, which created a problem for science and scientists -- producing the notion that we (scientists) were supposed to be unemotional.  That's something of a problem because we are not, nor is anybody truly human.  But another side was what Madeline referred to -- the good, and indeed the passionate, person, 'fascinated' (to quote the character) with the universe and doing the most good that he could. 

Going over to the real person, Leonard Nimoy, it is also now circulating that he argued for equal pay (to George Koenig) for Nichelle Nichols.  I hope in 2015 this doesn't sound remarkable.  But in the late 1960s, it was, for two reasons.  First, Nichelle Nichols is African American, and at that time, African Americans had only just gotten the right to vote.  Equal pay was a grandiose thought.  Second, she is a woman.  The 1963 equal pay act had only recently been signed.  But women were, and are, not given equal pay for equal work.  There's a 1984 equal pay case, for instance, well after Nimoy supported equal pay on the show, Grumbine vs. USA.  Grumbine won (which I take comfort from), but it was ludicrous that 20+ years after the law was signed, it still needed to be argued.  Nimoy succeeded in his corner of the universe a good 15 years earlier.  

In the mean time, regardless of where they wind up professionally, these are definitely two #womeninstem (twitter hashtag).

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