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Tim Hunt’s 'Women Scientists' Joke Shows He Doesn’t Understand Science, Either.

"In my opinion you’re allowed to cry." Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki reacts to the controversial comments made this week by Nobel Laureate Sir Tim Hunt.

Wendy Suzuki: So there’s a very recent event where a senior male scientist resigned because of very controversial remarks he made about women scientists being crybabies. There are situations that become very, very emotional in a lab. You have worked so long on something and something happens and it’s destroyed. In my opinion, you’re allowed to cry. I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman. That is a reason to cry. People are passionate in science. That’s the ironic thing. People are so passionate about their work. They spend all of their waking hours working on this yet, they’re not allowed to cry if something goes wrong or something bad happens or even if something good happens. I cried when I learned my paper got into Science magazine. I can still remember that. And I think that women, not all women, but some women are more open to that. It’s a movement that has not really started yet, but needs to start about bringing more positive emotion. By positive emotion I mean real emotion, authentic emotion into the practice of science. Because, as you know, the stereotype is closed, you know, unemotional. It’s just data. It doesn’t matter. But the truth is that all scientists are passionate about their ideas and what they’re doing and that leads to passionate emotions that could include crying or laughing or celebrating.

And I know lots of scientists that do show those emotions, but the stereotype is and perhaps the old guard is that shutdown kind of thing and the squelching of any show of emotion. So I certainly have had emotional situations in my lab where I had to say difficult things to people and there have been tears shed. And I have to say that I’ve had a journey myself in learning how to deal with that. At first it’s like, "I don’t want you to cry because if you cry I will cry," and that’s terrible so I tried not to have them cry. But my approach now is, "Look, that’s natural. If you need to cry, you cry." It’s just part — it doesn’t show anything weak or strong. It’s just part of the emotion that’s coming out. And I understand that because I’m saying something that may be difficult for you to hear. And I can see that. And, you know, my tagline is: Scientists are people too and we have emotions. And I think we need to acknowledge that. So I think it’s appropriate that that scientist step down. I think that represents something that we need to move away from in science and embrace the fact that scientists are people and they have emotions and that we’re very passionate people. And so crying can happen. I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman.

Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki took offense to recent comments by Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt about women scientists who become emotional and cry. Not only did she find Hunt's words to be inappropriate, but also Suzuki believes they represent an outdated culture that expects scientists to carry themselves without authentic emotion. Science is like any other beloved livelihood; it's built upon the passion of the men and women involved in it. There's no reason, says Suzuki, that emotion should be subdued. It's okay to cry when you're happy. It's okay to show your frustration when things go wrong. Suzuki's new book is titled Healthy Brain, Happy Life: A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain and Do Everything Better.

Why it’s hard to tell when high-class people are incompetent

A recent study gives new meaning to the saying "fake it 'til you make it."

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • The study involves four experiments that measured individuals' socioeconomic status, overconfidence and actual performance.
  • Results consistently showed that high-class people tend to overestimate their abilities.
  • However, this overconfidence was misinterpreted as genuine competence in one study, suggesting overestimating your abilities can have social advantages.
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Maps show how CNN lost America to Fox News

Is this proof of a dramatic shift?

Strange Maps
  • Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
  • Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
  • In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
  • By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.

"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

  • "The end is near."
  • "The idiocracy grows."
  • "(It's) like a spreading disease."
  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
For others, the maps are less about the rise of Fox News, and more about CNN's self-inflicted downward spiral:
  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):

  • Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.

The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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Mother bonobos, too, pressure their sons to have grandchildren

If you thought your mother was pushy in her pursuit of grandchildren, wait until you learn about bonobo mothers.

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Surprising Science
  • Mother bonobos have been observed to help their sons find and copulate with mates.
  • The mothers accomplish this by leading sons to mates, interfering with other males trying to copulate with females, and helping sons rise in the social hierarchy of the group.
  • Why do mother bonobos do this? The "grandmother hypothesis" might hold part of the answer.
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