Life as an Extreme Sport

A Penis Isn’t A Punchline (But It Is A Biological Structure)

Have you heard the one about Neotrogla? Neotrogla is an interesting cave insect discovered Brazil; instead of being blind or transparent or having other neat cave-specific adaptations, Neotrogla mixes things up with sex. In specific, Neotrogla females have a penis, while the males have an internal cavity that receives the penis. A great summary of the science can be found at Ed Yong’s Not Exactly Rocket Science. Unfortunately, there are a lot of not-great science communication attempts out there with Neotrogla, and Annalee Newitz took aim at them over at io9. Unfortunately, Newitz got it wrong, too. In particular, the issue with Newitz’s piece is it’s also conflating issues, mixing human gender-related issues with the more technical biology and anatomy of sex. She says almost every news outlet covered the story by describing the insects as “females with penises.” This isn’t just painfully wrong — it’s bad for science. and

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Real Identity on the Internet (My Variation)

I have been online a long time. I have a digital trail that sometimes feels like it’s a mile wide, where I benefit more from the fact that a lot of content from the early days of the world wide web weren’t archived before servers went down than anything else. I’ve been anonymous, pseudonymous, known by my married name and my given one. It gives me at least a little bit of perspective over the current debate over identity online, and it makes me uncomfortable to see me mentioned, even in passing, as a good “open identity” idea to emulate. I, truth be told, never gave much thought to what it meant to be visible online before my editor, reading an article I’d handed in for my third op-ed, asked me if I was sure I wanted to publish it. Had I really thought about what I was saying, and

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Suggestions Forward for Science Online (“Where Do We Go From Here?”)

In the wake of Bora Zivkovic’s multiple resignations last week (amazing index here, if you were out on a research cruise and missed it), I was asked if I was going to participate in offering further advice or recommendations to Science Online, since I had been visible and vocal in my impression of what needed to happen. My silence on the blog, save to discuss the difference between con(vention) and con(ference), shouldn’t be read as disinclination to proffer my opinion, but the much more prosaic: holy fuck, I’m tired. I also wanted to pull back and let other people have the conversation; science online is a community that I am (I would argue marginally) a part of, but the issue with Twitter and blogs is that sometimes the voices that are amplified are the ones that are most present, not the ones with the most thoughtful things to offer. …okay,

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Is Science Online a Con or a Conference?

As is inevitable in a situation like this, the dialog around Bora Zivkovic’s harassment of women has moved beyond his actions and resignations, and is now looking at the larger community and what sort of operational changes need to be made. This is clearly a more opaque process at Scientific American, since they have remained mostly silent–one presumes on the advice of lawyers. For Science Online, it’s a debate that’s happening out in public, on blogs and Twitter. Over the weekend, Chad Orzel saw comments I made on Twitter, and it motivated him to put forth his own specific take on the core issue affecting Science Online right now. Orzel’s post is well worth the read, both for the history of this particular blogging group and the Science Online conference. Orzel’s summary of the problem is this: Science Online has been trying to split the difference between functioning as a

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Revoking Power Redux

Last night was interesting. There was embarrassing praise and flattery, a few trolls, a debate over my use of the word “must” instead “should,” and quiet, thoughtful support and disagreement from several people, including Kathleen Raven. It’s tempting to address the language concerns first, because they’re easier. But that needs to be put aside for the more immediate: this morning, Kathleen published “Two Stories” on Medium. These created a bookend to her own experience of harassment, and while she didn’t name her first harasser, she did name the second: Bora Zivkovic. Raven did something different than Byrne or Waters, though. Byrne and Waters shared their experiences, their perceptions, snippets of remembered conversation. And narratives are powerful. They tell stories and share experiences. But some people will dismiss them because narratives are told from a specific point of view: that of the person telling it. Even if it’s not an outright

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