The Oculus Feminist

(SPOILER ALERT: click every single link in this post. No really, trust me on this.)

So my awesome friend Emily Eifler at blinkpopshift is a kickass tech developer and vlogger in the virtual reality field. She also happens to understand that technology, society and culture are intertwined. So when she went to a conference (expo?) about Oculus (the virtual reality gear), she asked a pretty relevant question along the lines of, “what is Oculus’ approach to the clear gender gap, and how do you plan to prevent it from being ported to VR?” because as spookiestbackslider (or really, anyone who keeps abreast of technology) could tell you, media (and the technology upon which it rides) affects people.

As happens, people (lol lez be honest, it was men) tore into her for it and issued her all kinds of nasty things in her direction. I am aware of this firsthand because people decided to leave some nasty comments on my interview with her as well as a vlog I did with her. I, of course, reported these comments as abusive and deleted them because that shit doesn’t fly with me. 

I am amused and saddened at just how seriously all these guys perceive this apparent threat to their very being. And I’m glad that Emily is taking it in stride, and also addressing it, because it hammers home the point that she and others are trying to call out: STEM is in many ways hostile to women. 

As someone who comes from a background where hostility toward women is nothing new or surprising, I am frankly boggled the majority of the time when guys are like “What!?!? Sexism doesn’t exist! Women just need to try harder!” and “women don’t REALLY want to be in STEM fields.” And act like the actions of men have nothing to do with why women don’t go into certain fields

All of this is to say that this is why it’s so important that we all speak out about feminism and discrimination and sexism in all their ugly forms, because somewhere there’s a little girl, who cares about science, who’s looking for a heroine.

I say let’s give her as many as we possibly can

Reflections on an amazing evening.

As mentioned, I was able to attend The Story’s Collider’s event Poisons & Passions last night, an event that featured four speakers telling stories about their experiences with science, among them the amazing Emily Graslie of The Brain Scoop. It was organized in association with a small science communication conference at MIT, so the dark concert venue was packed to the walls with spectators and some of the words greatest minds in science communication.

I could truly have not asked for a more amazing evening. The speakers told personal stories ranging from accidental childhood poisonings, to the amazing journeys of their parents to find their careers. I have been watching The Brain Scoop since its beginning, and meeting Emily was more amazing than I could have imagined. She is passionate, kind and so humble about the groundbreaking work she has done in the field of science communication.

That event reminded me why I do what I do. Why I spend hours of my time photographing and researching plants, browsing through botany tumblrs and sitting in front of a camera. It is because what I want to do most with my life is share my passion and enthusiasm about science and the natural world with others. Sitting in a room of science communicators, drinking beer and shouting over the music, reminded me of the amazing community of people working to inspire others. Science is more than just lab work and numbers (though those things are also awesome). It is the amazing, passionate people who spend their days figuring out how to instill enthusiasm and a sense of stewardship in the public.

Thank you to Emily for inspiring me, and, most of all, thank you to all of my amazing followers for listening to me rant about plants and bringing your own stories and enthusiasm to my little corner of the internet.”

Brilliant Botany is an educational blog focused on botany, with the goal of showing just how cool and interesting plants can be. It is run by Claire, a recent college grad with degrees in Plant Biology and English, a passion for plant collection and a love of short fiction.

via brilliantbotany


#garden science: Math Edition

These spiraling rings of pollinated sunflower seeds are a reminder of the mathematical patterns all around us in the natural world. brilliantbotany reminds us in her Five Botany Facts video, that: “sunflowers are made up of hundreds of tiny flowers, called florets.” [x, x]

It’s hard not to observe these small mathematical wonders when you are a gardener: you are a sort of decipher-er of patterns in an ongoing botanical experiment: the better you become at interpreting and organising your biome, the better you are at maintaining and thriving in it.

One of my favourite explanations of mathematical patterns of the botanical world is a three-part series on youtube:

Doodling in Math: Spirals, Fibonacci, and Being a Plant [1, 2, 3]

#garden science #flowers #seed morphology #sunflowers

Ferns grow on specialized stems called rhizomes, which are actually underground. Everything you see is part of the leaves or fronds. There are two types of rhizomes, creeping or upright. What you see here is an upright rhizome with a perfect circle of fern fronds growing from it. I didn’t take the time to identify it. 

Picture by Brilliant Botany.

Old superstition stated that anyone who pulled out a mandrake root would die. Because of that, people would dig around the mandrake, tie a rope around it, and have a dog pull it out instead. 
This drawing is a from a copy of Dioscorides' Materia Medica, an herbal written in the first century that was in use through the 1500’s. 

This doesn't relate directly to botany, but...

I’m currently writing a paper, so I have salamanders on the brain.

That sounds like some kind of weird disease…


External image

This is Aneides vagrans, the wandering salamander. It’s found toward on western coast of North America.

But all that’s not especially exciting.

What is exciting is one of the places they’re found. Coastal redwoods, which can be over 100m tall, contain miniature ecosystems in their branches. Dirt and debris accumulate in their branches, and eventually plants begin to grow. Scientists have also found specimens of A. vagrans, and it’s thought these populations live out their life cycles without ever touching the ground.

Cool, right?

Photo Source: Gary Nafis

Oftentimes, we look at the growth of a plant as something random or chaotic, but more often that not there is some underlying pattern. This head of cabbage is an amazing example. 

A common pattern that can be found in nature is the Fibonacci Spiral. The fibonacci sequence is acquired by adding a number to the one prior to it in the sequence (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 and so on), and the spiral is derived from that pattern. Also known as the Golden Spiral, it can be found everywhere in nature.

Photo by brilliantbotany.

If you’re interested in plants, I highly recommend Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart. It’s a book about the global cut flower industry, which, superficially, doesn’t sound all that engaging. But Stewart is an amazing writer who takes the reader across the world, from the Dutch flower market to the rose-growing industry in Ecuador. Great read for history buffs, scientists, and basically anyone else.