Tuesday, April 24, 2012

BEST Google Doodle So Far

As a tribute to the Swedish engineer who invented the zipper, Gideon Sundback. Google has provided us with arguably the best google doodle I have seen so far. You unzip an entire google search results page. C'MON! That is so dope, I had to stand-up and do a victory dance after that!

Woohoo for google (or should I say yahoo!)

Monday, April 23, 2012

BFS: Black Female Scientist of the Day - Dara Norman

Yesterday I sat down to watch a documentary entitled "Race and Intelligence: "Race and Intelligence: Science's Last Taboo, a  UKChannel4 Production hosted by a black man on a quest to determine whether the claims made by scientific racists are true: that some races of people are inherently brighter than others and nothing can be done about this intrinsic difference which is entrenched deeply in our genetic inheritance. Garbage, in my opinion of course. Though intelligence may easily be inborn, the way in which someone is raised and what ideas are instilled in them from birth has plenty to do with the outcome of their lives including the intellectual progress they make along the way. Another thing...Confucius. Far-east Asian individuals who are known for their incredible academic success are hard-working and much of this is owed to what they are told during their upbringing.

As a black race, we need more of that. Luckily, I grew up in a family that encouraged and rewarded academic success. Not many of us have that and being away from that family environment may derail some people. I find myself losing heart at times because our department does not feature black women in positions of authority. If there was one, just one black female lecturer, it would make a world of difference and we may even begin to see a greater enrollment of black women in the physics department at the Honours, Masters and PhD levels. Instead, you are encroached by mainly white males who favour, prefer to communicate with and pay attention to their white male males and sometimes even females. But a black female bearing the greatest level of difference to them is more or less an other that they fail to relate to thus making communication uncomfortable and awkward. Yet it does not have to be that way. All they have to do is recognize a common humanity between us. Some of them do, don't get me wrong but there are those that view you as a complete "other" and keep their distance at all costs. It's fear indeed. Fear = ignorance.

In lieu of all of this, I feel it necessary to revel in the Black Female Scientists, particularly those that are involved in Astronomy, Physics and Space Engineering and Science. Today, I look at Dara Norman who three years ago was cordially invited to a Star Party at the White House (yessir!). She graduated with a PhD at the University of Washington in 1999, has published several papers, specialising in gravitational lensing, large scale structure and quasars and now works at the Cerro Tololo Observatory. Here she is, hair dreaded and all:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Conscious Conversations part II : my side of things

Went for the second year in a row and it was refreshing as usual to hear black people give voice to their experiences of racism at UCT and I could certainly empathize with issues that people brought up such as biases with grading, lecturers who are white not paying attention to non-white students academic needs via consultation etc, being rendered invisible or being ignored. One thing that I really found strange was how some instructors, lecturers etc have spoken to me very rudely for absolutely no reason at all (aside from the fact that they are absolute douchebags with not a shred of decency). I have sought questions and they have raised their voices at me as if I have committed a crime of some sort by my very being there. At that point, I begin to query. Is there some part of their ignorant minds in which they firmly believe that by virtue of me being black and female, I do not belong in the sciences. That when I approach them, they have nothing but scorn and disdain to offer, both of which filter very easily through the tones of their voices. I think the answer is certainly yes. That has more to do with me being black than female because I know how polite and gentle their approach is with the white women in the department. They are better able to communicate well with them.

I remember when I went to consult some a black man (from outside of South Africa) about a test question which I felt was marked wrongly. Before he spoke to me, he dealt with another student who was white female and very petite. His register was very gentle and he treated her in the same manner of respect I would afford anyone else and then it was my turn to ask. All of a sudden, his tone of voice turned angry as though someone had spit on his face and he started yelling "No I cannot correct that or give you an extra mark" (I was just chancing for half marks by the way, the answer was only partly correct). The tone of his voice was quite shocking, it came from what I perceived as nowhere really. Yet it was the part of his ego that was so insulted that a black woman would dare come to university and obtain good grades. Fool! He was only the second person to confront me this way.

In the physics department, here at UCT this kind of unjustifiable douchebag behaviour has been seen in four people, one of them the deputy head of department. Three others, two white and the other coloured. Raising your voice or speaking in a harsh tone is something you would expect from a primary school teacher who seeks to intimidate. It is an adult-to-child kind of speech that with doubtful effectiveness because it only breeds fear, disrespect and distrust between participants of this kind of dialogue and no helpful, meaningful solutions or resolutions. I view it as patronizing when committed by one adult to another even when one is far younger and I have little to no respect for anyone seeking to put-down another individual in the name of elevating themselves. Its douchebaggery 101 some of these mofo's should be teaching not physics. In any case, its a way to separate the men from the boys. The people with character and those who have very little of it. The gentlemen from the scum. If anything I should be grateful that indicators such as this exist.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Azealia Azealia

This seldom happens. The last time it did, I was raving about M.I.A. and Janelle Monae. Now it's this beautiful chocolate-skinned princess whose career I anticipate is going places. Azealia Banks. Just listen, there's not much more I could say.