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Posts from the ‘Science’ Category

Women in Tech from ENIAC to MOM

By Adam Turner

On September 24, as I enjoyed my second coffee of the morning and caught up on news, a photo caught my eye. In the image, women in colorful saris congratulated each other amidst massive computer monitors. The exuberance of the photo arrested me -- as did the obvious techy setting, nerd that I am -- but, sadly, what really drew my attention was the fact that these women seemed … out of place. And I wasn't the only one drawn in by this image. The photo, snapped by AFP photographer Manjunath Kiran, quickly made the rounds on news outlets and social media.

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Female Sexual Dysfunction: “Pink Viagra,” A Dysfunctional Approach to Treatment

by Nicole Foti

You may have noticed the recent hype surrounding the “little pink pill” or “pink Viagra,” a pill used to treat female sexual dysfunction, or FSD, a condition affecting nearly 50 million women nationwide. The FDA’s latest rejection of the drug flibanserin has caught the attention of a number of media outlets and women’s groups, including the National Organization for Women (NOW), who are questioning the motives behind this decision. Why does the FDA refuse to approve any drugs for women with sexual dysfunction, while men have five to choose from, plus another nineteen generic brands of these drugs? After reading many articles indicating that FSD was, in fact, an epidemic affecting millions of women (possibly myself included) and that the FDA was being outright sexist in their reluctance to approve drugs to treat it, I decided to do a little research. Instead of finding answers though, I seem to be left with questions. One in particular is: what are we treating here anyways?

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Clitoral History: A Tale of Love, Loss, and Discovery

by Nicole Lock

I didn’t discover my clitoris until I was a freshman in high school. It may have been mentioned in some measly sexual education class, but it definitely failed to register as the only organ with a purely pleasurable function. If the teacher had mentioned that over 8,000 nerve endings exist on the clitoral glands alone, while the internal structure had bulbs and legs that were also sources of pleasure, my ears definitely would have perked up. The clitoris has a history of being glossed over, not just in sexual education courses, but also in medical research. It wasn’t until 1998, when urologist Helen O’Connell published her findings regarding the internal structure of the clitoris, that the medical world finally had a true understanding of its size and scope. The organ, so central to female pleasure, has endured a long history of cultural and social norms that have hindered its appreciation and understanding. The Western history of the clitoris has many lessons to teach us about the ways female sexuality has been misled, discounted, oppressed, and even enjoyed.

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Eugenics and Genetics in the News in 2013

By Tina M. Kibbe

Happy New Year! As another year ends, I wanted to take a look at three news stories involving eugenics and genetics in 2013 that you may have missed.

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Girls, STEM, and My List of “Ingenious Inventors”

By Carolyn Herbst Lewis

There is much talk these days about girls and STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In 2009, only 24% of scientists and engineers were women. This is not surprising, given the fact that women comprise only about 17% of the students earning degrees in these subjects, as compared to the 79% of students earning bachelor's degrees in education. There are material benefits to building careers in STEM. A woman in a STEM-related career earns, on average, 33% more than a woman in a non-STEM field. Given the continued gender wage gap, and the high numbers of women in poverty in this country, it makes sense to encourage an interest in STEM. How to do so has been the tricky part. Colleges and universities -- as well as prospective employers -- actively recruit women to enroll in STEM programs. But getting young women interested in these fields has been more difficult. The old maxims that girls don't pursue these interests because “Math class is tough,” and their brains are not “hardwired” for it, no longer suffice. Researchers have found ample evidence that demonstrates that it is a combination of gender conditioning and a lack of role models that make girls feel that they don’t “belong” in STEM. This isn’t just about finding gender equity in the workplace or the college classroom, then; it's also about reframing the gendered messages we send to young girls and women about femininity and science.

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Odd Adventures in Tooth Fairy History

By Jacqueline Antonovich

Recently, my daughter lost her very first baby tooth. It happened one afternoon while eating lunch; her loose tooth just popped right out of her mouth and into her bowl of ramen noodles. After I fished out the tooth with my fingers and wiped away her tears, my sweet little daughter looked up at me with her new toothless grin and exclaimed: "This means the Tooth Fairy is coming tonight! I'm gonna be rich!" Well, maybe not exactly rich. I'm still in grad school, so despite the fact that inflation has driven up the price of a tooth to nearly four dollars, in my house the Tooth Fairy only pays a measly buck.

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Conference Report on History of Science Society 2013 Annual Meeting

By Heather Munro Prescott

Last weekend I attended the 2013 annual meeting of the History of Science Society in Boston, Massachusetts. I tweeted periodic comments throughout the conference. Here are some further thoughts:

On Thursday afternoon, I started off with the Special Public Engagement Session: Science in the Streets, cosponsored by Boston University Center for the Philosophy and History of Science. This session consisted of two interdisciplinary panels aimed at exploring "innovative ways of connecting ordinary citizens with science, and how the history of science can inform and enrich these efforts." Presenters included Brian Malow (the science comedian) and Ari Daniel Shapiro of the science podcast The Story Collider. Conevery Valencius Bolton from the University of Massachusetts, Boston did a fine job as an emcee for the session.

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Reflections: A Conference on Children and “Imperfection”

By Adam Turner

Over the past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in the Centre for Medical Humanities Imperfect Children conference at the University of Leicester. The conference included a wonderful mix of disciplines and both historical and present-day perspectives on the concept of "imperfection" and children. This usefully provocative focus led to an ongoing discussion during the two-day meeting about the definition of imperfection and how it relates to concepts like normality, health, and ability.

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Dropping the K-Bomb

By Carolyn Herbst Lewis

Sixty years ago, a great many Americans spent the final weeks of the summer of 1953 thinking about sex. Five years earlier, a hefty scientific volume on the sexual experiences of men had become a surprise bestseller. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male detailed the sex lives of 12,000 American men, revealing incidences of masturbation, premarital and same-sex encounters, and sundry secrets that shocked, intrigued, reassured, and infuriated the nation. Now, it was the ladies’ turn.

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Man Up: Give Blood Like a Victorian

By Sean Cosgrove

How do we convince people of the need to donate blood? It can be scary and uncomfortable, and I’ll be the first to admit, as someone who does not regularly donate, that it all seems like a lot of work. The answer, according to one comedian writing in a Sydney commuter magazine recently (which has unfortunately been lost to me and, to the best of my knowledge, is not reproduced online), at least in part, was to provoke people (especially men) into volunteering to roll up their sleeves. Rather than the softly-softly approach, the tugging on heart strings or outright begging, it suggested that we should try a more competitive approach: tell these people to drink their cup of concrete.

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