Drunk physicists and objectified mathematicians

Drunk scientists can make incredible discoveries. Researchers at the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan were testing a certain compound for its “superconducting” properties, while having a little party.

The tipsy researchers decided to soak the compound in the –rather impressive– stock of liquors they had on hand (sake, whisky, various wines, shochu, and beer) and seeing how they compared to the more boring soaking liquids (hot water and ethanol).

Lo and behold, Shochu jacked up conductivity by 23 percent and red wine managed to supercharge over 62 percent of the material. “The scientists were pleased, if bemused with their results.”

We recommend that they try to reproduce their results after the hangover is over, before they submit them to the “Journal of Brewing and Distilling”.

Just think of how fortunate experimental physicists will be, when all these liquids become NSERC-eligible expenses.

In other news, U. Nebraska’s researchers claim to have discovered that  women’s math abilities are so –literally– vulnerable, that a mere objectifying look by a male would cause them to suffer.

I don’t understand. I, male research mathematician, have tendency to lose my focus whenever my cat “Bleue” stares at me for more than 20 seconds. Am I missing something?

Whether this is truth or fiction, it is another argument for an atmosphere of mutual respect for all in our classrooms.

But then, it gets worse. They also found that “somewhat ironically, the same women that were objectified also wanted more interaction with the person that had objectified them.”

And it gets even worse than that. The paper, entitled “When What You See Is What You Get: The Consequences of the Objectifying Gaze for Women and Men”, has been recognized as the best paper of 2011 for the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly.

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3 Responses to Drunk physicists and objectified mathematicians

  1. Greg Martin says:

    I’m not really sure what you find unbelievable about the Nebraska research. Other studies show that women (in scientific subjects) and some minorities (in all subjects) perform worse when their attention is explicitly called to their gender/race before the task – it seems that this calls to their minds the culture’s negative stereotypes, which are then assimilated into their performance. Other studies show that writing about individual positive values increases performance. Do you have a specific reason to think that the Nebraska research’s conclusion is erroneous?

  2. David Kohler says:

    To follow on Greg’s comment, if the Psychology of Women Quarterly isn’t a reference you deem to be good enough, there is an interesting article published in PNAS “Stereotype threat prevents perceptual learning” [1] describes an experiment where lesser learning was measure due to stereotype threat. The wikipedia article on stereotype threat alone will provide enough reading for a while on “a phenomenon which has been confirmed in over three hundred scientific articles” [2].

    Speaking of stereotypes, it would be good not to let the usual cliché of mathematicians misunderstanding sound scientific research. I really enjoy your blog and its positive influence on the mathematical community, but I think this post deserves an errata.

    [1] PNAS “Stereotype threat prevents perceptual learning” – August 10, 2010 vol. 107 no. 32 14042-14047
    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype_threat

  3. John Walsh says:

    I wish I could remember where I read it, but
    somewhere I ran across the claim that a certain Greek judicial
    body—the Spartan ephors?—would consider important matters twice,
    once while drunk and once while sober. It sounds like something Borges
    would write, but if it wasn’t he or Aristophanes, it’s probably just an
    urban (city-state?) legend. But…hmm…

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