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Boston Skeptics’ Book Club #7

Posted on : 31-05-2010 | By : Mary | In : Blog Post

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Last Saturday, we met up in the beautiful Christopher Columbus Park on the Waterfront to discuss The Madame Curie Complex by Julie Desjardins. The book mostly discusses the history of women in science since the 1880s, starting with Marie Curie. The title comes from the fact that Curie was often written about as a super-woman of sorts, who had time to raise her children and also win two Nobels. She was seen as a matronly martyr, even though that stereotype didn’t resemble her life at all. She was reclusive, brilliant, and seemed to prefer science over everything else. She was a Gold Standard of sorts for female scientists, who were supposed to be brilliant but only in a “womanly” fashion. Many early female scientists discussed in this book were seen as helpmeets or assistants to their male superiors. The women were mostly relegated to data collecting positions, as their “female brains” were supposed to be attentive to detail, while the analyzing and problem solving was something more suited to a “male brain”.

The book also discusses Lillian Gilbreth, the woman behind Cheaper By The Dozen, who pioneered workplace efficiency science with her husband and who continued to be a scientist of “domestic arts” (natch) after his death. The chapter about her is full of how awesome she was at managing her time and keeping her house run like a factory. She was portrayed as a mistress of domesticity, even though in reality she never cooked anything herself and had to make up a cake recipe on the fly for a publicity campaign.

The other women discussed in the book are: the women of the Harvard Observatory, the women who worked on the Manhattan Project, Rosalind Franklin, Maria Mayer (Nobel winner for the shell-orbit theory of atoms), Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, and many more.

Overall, I found the book informative but a little long in some parts. The author really enjoys belaboring some points while not focusing too hard on other points. The Manhattan Project section was a little jumbled and she jumped from scientist to scientist until I couldn’t tell who did what, while the chapter on Lillian Gilbreth went on and on about how efficient the woman was. However, it was still an enjoyable read for me, since I like to read about history, especially with a feminist analysis. Others in the BSBC wanted to learn more about the science that the women were doing but I found the history of institutionalized sexism the most interesting part and the book definitely talked a lot about that.

If you read the book but couldn’t make it to our meeting, leave a note in the comments! I want to find out your opinions, whether you liked it or didn’t. And don’t be shy–come out to our meetings! You don’t have to be a regular (or even finish the book) to join us and have a good time.

Our next book is Carl Zimmer’s Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures. Our next meeting date is June 19th at 3 pm, location is TBD for now until we know what the weather is like. If it’s sunny, we’ll meet again at the CC Park, otherwise we’ll probably meet at our usual Border’s Cafe. Come join us for a fun-filled parasitic chat!

Boston Skeptics’ Book Club: Final Details

Posted on : 20-05-2010 | By : Mary | In : Blog Post

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The weather in Boston looks like it’s going to be pretty nice this weekend, so to take advantage of a beautiful Saturday we’re going to be meeting outside at the Christopher Columbus Park at 1 pm on Saturday, May 22nd. The park is right off of the Aquarium T Station on the Blue Line. We’ll meet by the sprinklers near the waterfront, and I just crudely photoshopped a big X onto the spot where we’re meeting below:

Christopher Columbus Park--X marks the meeting spot!

Christopher Columbus Park--X marks the meeting spot!

Bring a jacket because it can get a little chilly by the water! There are food places in the area for anyone who is looking for a snack. Come out and enjoy the sun with me and the rest of the BSBC as we discuss The Madame Curie Complex. (This time we won’t have to nervously look around for tables to snipe!)

Video: Jon Ronson – May 9th, 2010

Posted on : 15-05-2010 | By : maggie | In : Skeptics in the Pub, video

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Jon Ronson talks about The Men Who Stare at Goats, Uri Geller, predators, nearly being killed ( a lot) and… well, you really just need to watch. Jon is engaging and funny and we could have just let him talk all night and been happy.

Boston Skeptics in the Pub – Jon Ronson – May 9th, 2010 from Maggie McFee on Vimeo.

Boston Skeptics’ Book Club Time Change

Posted on : 15-05-2010 | By : Mary | In : Blog Post

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The next BSBC meeting is next Saturday, May 22nd, although there has been a slight time change. (If any of you attended Boston Skeptics in the Pub, Liz already announced this.) Just this once, I have to change the meeting time to 1 pm rather than the usual 3 pm (a personal conflict came up at the last minute). Anyway, I hope this doesn’t mess up too many schedules, it’s just a one time change.

Meeting place is still TBD until the date is closer so we can see if the weather is good enough to meet outside. Keep checking back here for details, and happy reading!

Boston Skeptics in the Pub with Jon Ronson

Posted on : 05-05-2010 | By : Jared | In : Blog Post, Event, Skeptics in the Pub

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Skeptics in the Pub: Mothers’ Day Special

with Jon Ronson

WHEN
Sunday, May 9, 2010
7:00pm – 10:00pm

WHERE
Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square (top floor)
96 Winthrop Street
Cambridge, MA

Facebook event page

Good news, Everyone! You’re all invited to a SPECIAL Boston Skeptics in the Pub this Sunday evening, when our guest will be the FANTASTIC Jon Ronson.

Jon is probably best known as the author of the book “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” which became a movie starring George Clooney and Ewan McGregor. Jon’s written several other books, and his journalistic work has appeared widely in print in the UK and elsewhere. Additionally, Jon has appeared several times on Public Radio International’s “This American Life,” and has created documentary series for TV and radio.

Jon is a charismatic, funny, self-deprecating speaker, and while we KNOW Sunday is Mothers’ Day, you could still cap off the day by bringing your moms to Tommy Doyle’s to listen to Jon’s talk! And yes, while the event is FREE OF CHARGE, your mom doesn’t have to know that… tell her you got her a ticket as a present! BONUS!

Either way, as Jon himself said on Twitter, “[W]e’ll have just the greatest time,” so don’t miss out!