“I decided to get Ph.D. in experimental physics because experimental physicists have their own room in the Institute where they can hang their coat, whereas theoretical physicists have to hang their coat at the entrance.”—George Gamow, the man who developed the Big Bang theory of cosmology
Good news: I’m less than a month away from finishing the coursework for my undergrad! then I’ll have a DEGREE
Bad news: I’m less than a month away from finishing the coursework for my undergrad! so I probably won’t be posting with much regularity until then.
Thanks for sticking with me this year, guys—it’s been hugely up and down, and I’ve spent about a quarter of it overseas which makes it kind of hard to keep up projects like sciencesoup. (I mean, I don’t think I’ve even told you guys about all the rad museums I went to yet.) My rare spare time lately has been spent writing fiction and experimenting with different forms of science writing, so hopefully I’ll have something to show for that soon!
"humans have long realised that it’s not necessarily binary and it doesn’t necessarily match up to biological sex" Uh, do you have a source for this? I have been bothered about people claiming this ever since I first started seeing it, but people claiming to be some (seemingly) ridiculous other gender don't harm anyone, so I never particularly minded it (aside from not believing that it is possible). I would be very thankful if you would give me a study that proves it. Thanks, and nice blog! -CS
The way you’ve worded this question is pretty insensitive, but I understand the desire for evidence, so here we go.
First of all, it’s important to note that the relationship between sex and gender are largely explained by sociology and psychology at the moment (but still based on actual phenomena). ‘Hard science’ fields are still navigating their way through research. So, although there are some studies that I will share, mostly relating to gender identity in trans* people, I have to make it clear that none are definitive or absolutely conclusive yet.
Study suggesting “the white matter microstructure pattern in untreated [Female to Male] transsexuals is closer to the pattern of subjects who share their gender identity (males) than those who share their biological sex (females)”—i.e., displaying evidence for an inherent difference in the brain structure of FtM transsexuals.
Companion study suggesting “the white matter microstructure pattern in untreated MtF transsexuals falls halfway between the pattern of male and female controls. The nature of these differences suggests that some fasciculi do not complete the masculinization process in MtF transsexuals during brain development.”
Study of twins suggesting that gender identity might not just be due to psychological/behavioural causes, but also biological ones (eg genetics, makeup of their brains, prenatal exposure to hormones, etc)
A small study from over a decade ago, but with results that suggest that MtF transsexuals have a typically female structure in one part of the brain, and vice versa for FtM. According to the study’s authors, this “clearly support[s] the paradigm that in transsexuals sexual differentiation of the brain and genitals may go into opposite directions and point to a neurobiological basis of gender identity disorder.”
These studies currently just provide tentative evidence and display the need for further research, as a lot of science does. I’m sorry I can’t link to the full studies for some of these, but now you have the references you can search further if you wish.
I hope this gives you food for thought, and I hope that in the future you amend the language you use to discuss these issues.
If anyone’s interested in writing science fiction, check this competition out—it’s seeking flash fiction (stories no longer than 1000 words) inspired by quantum physics.
It’s a joint endeavour between Scientific American, Tor Books, and the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore, and there are special categories for students 13 to 18, as well as an open category. Prizes include cash and subscriptions to Scientific American.
I’m heading off to Europe next week, visiting Paris and London before finishing up in Oxford, where I’ll be attending a summer school (while living in Exeter College!). Any suggestions for science-related places to vist?
The guy behind the Symphony of Science remixes—melodysheep, otherwise known as John Boswell—has also released a rad album called Terra Lumina. It’s basically folk/rock music centred around scientific concepts from natural selection to supernovae, and it’s both really pretty and really fascinating. Head over to bandcamp to listen to the rest of the album and support the blending of art and science!
Breathing has become so mundane that we hardly ever notice it, but if we stop and consider what’s happening every moment of our lives, it almost takes our breath away. Every few moments we inhale a complex mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide, and our lungs expand and our capillaries absorb the oxygen. It races through our bloodstream, pumped to all corners of our bodies by a lump of muscle and tissue that knocks against our rib cages and never gets an answer, but keeps on supporting us for our whole lifetimes anyway, for 2.5 billion beats in the complex song of life. We are intricate systems of muscles, nerves and tissue, wound together on a frame of hardened collagen and calcium, like the coral upon which a reef ecoystem depends. We are the products of four billion years of evolution, owing our every atom to the seething furnaces of a long-gone stellar explosions. We are machines, all of us: organic machines made of flesh and blood and sinew and a billion electrical impulses that pay tribute to our celestial ancestry, lighting up our brains like the stars light up the darkness. We are such fragile, soft machines.
“The unsolved mysteries of the rainforest are formless and seductive. They are like unnamed islands hidden in the blank spaces of old maps, like dark shapes glimpsed descending the far wall of a reef into an abyss. They draw us forward and stir strange apprehensions. The unknown and prodigious are drugs to the scientific imagination, stirring insatiable hunger with a single taste. In our heart, we hope we will never discover everything. We pray that there will always be a world like this one at whose edge I sat in darkness. The rainforest and its richness is one of the last repositories on Earth of that timeless dream.”—E.O. Wilson