More people are going to college, graduate school, and obtaining PhDs in STEM fields than ever before (Figure 1), and a growing minority of these PhD candidates are non-traditional or not white affluent males. While we celebrate this change, let us not forget that academia was built by – and for – the “traditional” student. My favourite analogy to explain this type of ingrown privilege is bicycles on USA streets. Bicycles are legally allowed to be on streets, some streets even have extra space just for bicycles, but streets were designed for automobiles. You may be allowed and, in some areas, encouraged to get on the street with your bicycle, but biking a street is going to be intrinsically more difficult than if you were driving a car.
Like Marconi and La Bamba in a city built on rock and roll, you will inevitably end up in situations that conflict with your way of life. You will not receive a warning before you stumble upon these bumps, and you will be judged by how quickly you accept traditional standards (if you can). I remember a conversation with traditional tenured and tenure-track scientists discussing proposals for a large grant scheme. One tenure-track scientist was lamenting the process of shopping for editors for his proposal. He talked about it freely, how there were two companies that charged different rates and he was in talks with one but that company felt a conflict of interest that he had worked with another rival editing company. The rest of the traditional scientists nodded in mutual understanding. Finding good, cheap editors to improve your work is hard. My working-class ethos was busy screaming inside my head. How can hiring someone to edit and improve written works that you will ultimately be rewarded for be so blithely acceptable? You’re not allowed to hire editors for any task throughout your training. You learn how to write from earning disappointing grades (or failing grant applications). You read more, you study written works, you develop a voice, and you try again. The results get better until you are at an appropriate level to move up another notch on the ladder, right? Not for traditionals.
Here are some more bizarre “traditional” customs you should expect if you are biking down the academic street:
There’s been some amazing things happening around the oceanosphere, none of which are particularly related. All of which are pretty awesome (or super bogus). Here we go!
1. Robots to save the ocean. Last weekend I was in Miami at We Robot 2016, a meeting about the future of robotics and the law, repping for OpenROV and talking about the wide, wild world of underwater robotics. Joining me was Polk State College’s Joey Maier, presenting his awesome and innovative STEAM outreach program with OpenROV. You can watch the whole talk here (talk begins at about 10:25):
2. Celebrating Craig McClain. Dr. M has been overlord of the venerable Deep Sea News for over a decade. His loyal school of cuttlefish have secretly declared this to be Dr. Craig McClain Week, a tribute to the man and the living legend. Craig spawned Kevin Zelnio, who ultimately inspired the creation of Southern Fried Science, which makes Craig McClain the Grand Nagus of the ocean blogosphere.
3. Triton gills, definitely a scam. The sketchy Triton gills project refunded all of its donor last week, then promptly relaunched with a new, equally tenuous bit of psuedo-technology. At this point, the internet is lousy with due diligence, so really, it’s on you whether or not to back this obviously non-functional product.
Stress is often high among scientists, especially those involved in conservation. However, I have found one of easiest solutions to relieve the stress is to write about your problems. Putting all the anger and frustrations down on paper (or on screen) can be sublimely cathartic. You can feel your blood pressure literally dropping points with every word you write.
Last Friday I pointed out that, based on the science presented and the behavior of the team involved, Triton Gills is almost certainly a scam. You can read that post and the linked articles for more details.
We do a bit of ocean debunking here at Southern Fried Science, though less and less every year, in part for the reasons listed below. While I find it vital for the ocean community that we push back, especially, about outright fraud, there are a few things that happen which make the entire process enormously frustrating. So much so that you come away disinclined to bother doing anything the next time a fraudulent project comes around.
1. Everyone expects you to be as outraged as they are. I get it, people don’t like being defrauded, people don’t like seeing others defrauded, and everyone feels a sense of self-righteous justice when they find something to rail against in real time. But I’m not the ShittyCrowdfunding Avenger. I saw a bad project, I wrote about the bad project, I gave some interviews to journalists about the bad project. I’m not in the business of doggedly pursuing one crowfunding campaign to extinction. I also don’t assume people are idiots. Whenever you back any crowdfunding campaign, you have to do your due diligence. We make an effort here to make our due diligence public and easy to find so that other can benefit from it. Read More
I wasn’t going to review Triton Gills, currently racking up $700,000+ on IndieGogo. I hate being the wettest of wet blankets when it comes to new ocean innovations and I’m much happier boosting the profile of good, scientifically sound, ocean projects. But I was curious about Triton after a few journalists asked me to comment about it. On their Facebook page, I asked them to respond to the following articles:
Both of which raise important, salient questions and concerns voiced by experts in the field, including the research director of the Divers’ Alert Network, our friend Al Dove at Deep Sea News, and myself.
Their response? They deleted the comment and banned the Southern Fried Science account from their page.
I was willing to write Triton off as a team of hopeful idealists and wish them well on their quixotic quest. I’m certainly not one to audit what other people choose to support through crowdfunding. It’s always a gamble, and that’s fine. But now, having dug far more deeply into their proposal than I ever wanted to, I’m no longer willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Triton Gills is almost certainly a scam. Read More
This Monday I launched A Crack in the Sky above Titan, a science fiction adventure framed around the seemingly simple question: What is it like to sail across the methane seas of Titan?
While Southern Fried Science is all about ocean science and conservation, we do make the occasional foray into space. From celestial navigation on Mars, do diving robots on Europa, to exploring other (fictional) worlds to learn something about our own, we haven’t shied away from the ‘other’ final frontier. So, in honor of A Crack in the Sky above Titan (available now on Amazon*) here is a selection of our favorite space nerdery from Southern Fried Science.
Our planet is an ocean, and it is almost entirely unexplored. OpenROV, and their new Trident underwater drone is one of many tools that will help change that by democratizing exploration, conservation, and ocean science. We are poised atop the crest of a wave that may change how humans interact with the ocean as profoundly as the invention of the aqualung.
Earth is not the only body in our solar system that hosts an ocean. As we (slowly) venture out into the stars, could OpenROV Trident dive in extraterrestrial seas?
A simple writing prompt–what would it be like to sail across Titan?–has taken me on a 20,000-word journey through the intricacies of life on Saturn’s largest moon. Join the Salvager on a journey across Kraken Mare to land the score of a lifetime, if the rest of the universe doesn’t get in their way. Discover the weird, wonderful world of Titan and her coastal colonies and confront the challenges of sailing across an alien world.
A Crack in the Sky above Titan takes a lot of the ideas developed during Field Notes from the Future and extends them out into the extremely distant future. At what point do humans, heavily augmented with hardware and software, stop being human? What rights are retained when a person contains no human parts? How does art evolve in a future obsessed with technology? And how exactly do you sail via celestial navigation with no polar star and an atmosphere of dense haze.
I know, I’m not supposed to talk about this, but I love to sing. Every neighbor, flat mate, and unwilling car passenger knows this. In fact, the only thing I love as much as singing is teaching science, but the metaphorical light bulb didn’t come on until I attended a SciComm workshop in Portugal. Why not sing about science like many others? Maybe even weather and climate??
Adele songs were the obvious choice, both for singability and availability of karaoke versions on YouTube, so I began my research. I asked facebook if this would be a valuable addition to the internets, or best not to talk about it ever again, and the response was significantly positive. Thus, #SingingScience was born and with it a commitment to do more of these when I have free time.