Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences review

Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex DifferencesBrain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences by Rebecca M. Jordan-Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very good takedown of “brain organization theory”, which is the idea that sex hormones in the fetus lead to changes in the brain between men and women, which is why men are better at *pick your stereotype here*.

The author does a very good job at looking at a bunch of studies which purport to show these differences and shows that a lot of them are pretty weak and even contradict each other. One funny example is that traits that were assumed to be signs of masculinization in the 1960s then became signs of feminization in the 1980s! This happened in scientific studies but apparently nobody noticed, because these were “common sense” measures that the author had to do some digging to elucidate.

Anyway, the upshot of the book is that we really need more rigorous and contextualized studies to make the kind of claims that you see bandied about. There probably are some differences, but they’re small and can be easily overcome by environment or deliberate practice. (for example, the often used example that men on average are better at spatial relations – women can eliminate this gap with just a few days of practice!)

I’m not sure if it was because life has been a bit stressful or what, but it took me a long time to get through the book – it’s pretty technical and dense. But overall it was a good read!

View all my reviews

friday linked list: go Astros!, HIV vaccine, the KKK

New antibody attacks 99% of HIV strains – wow! Human trials are supposed to start next year and still a lot of things could go wrong, but this is exciting!

I wanted to understand why racists hated me. So I befriended Klansmen. – wow! Powerful story.

– One of the reasons I left LiveJournal was that they turned off HTTPS, which makes it very easy for people (ahem, Russian government) to get your password and see what you’re doing. Well, to my surprise they turned it back on again! Although there are still other reasons not to use LJ anymore….

– Boston University has developed a preliminary way of diagnosing CTE in living patients, which may have a big effect on the NFL.

– This video for Maroon 5’s “Sugar” is very sweet – they go around LA crashing weddings 🙂 (although would it have killed them to crash a gay wedding? They’re in California!) (thanks Jennifer!)

How the Catalan government uses IPFS to sidestep Spain’s legal block – that is clever!

The Good Place is a great show! If you’re watching it, here a giant list of food pun restaurants from a recent episode, and a ranking of the ones that actually showed up in the episode. (if you’re not watching, that second link has spoilers!)

My Mass Shooting Ritual – it makes me incredibly depressed that I have the same thoughts. See also Our collective happiness on Twitter reaches a new low.

Russian soccer officials add bleachers OUTSIDE stadium to satisfy FIFA – hah! That looks terrifying.

friday linked list: AI can identify gay people by their face, the greatest story ever told, reframing negative thoughts

Artificial Intelligence Can Identify ‘Gay Faces’ From a Picture, Study Claims – oh, man. There is nothing but bad things that can come of this. The author’s notes take pains to say they didn’t develop an algorithm, they’re just using already existing ones, which is even more scary. (thanks Stephen!)

The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1 – this is the best story I’ve ever read. Take a few minutes and read it!

For Teens Knee-Deep In Negativity, Reframing Thoughts Can Help – this is helpful. I worry about being able to help my daughter as she gets old enough to have these problems…luckily, I have a while to prepare!

Break Up the Tech Giants? No, Just Level the Field – this seems like a more achievable goal. (yes, Uber is a taxi company, not “ride-sharing”…)

United Airlines is testing a novel way to bump passengers – hey, this is, like, not terrible!

I downloaded an app. And suddenly, was part of the Cajun Navy. – neat firsthand experience!

How Hurricane Harvey Taught the World About Houston – Yay Houston! (thanks Mom!)

Mystery of sonic weapon attacks at US embassy in Cuba deepens – scary stuff that sounds like something out of a spy novel

Anatomy of a Moral Panic – yeah, the whole “Amazon is radicalizing people by suggesting bomb ingredients” take is a bit much…

Beautiful 30-day time lapse of a cargo ship’s voyage – wow, look at that night sky! Very pleasant to watch.

Nasa’s ambitious plan to save Earth from a supervolcano – great, I had forgotten how scary supervolcanoes are. From the article:

“But Yellowstone explodes roughly every 600,000 years, and it is about 600,000 years since it last exploded, which should cause us to sit up and take notice.”

When Henry Ford’s Benevolent Secret Police Ruled His Workers – umm, creepy!

You Don’t Need to Do a Prolonged Fast Before Surgery – interesting! (thanks David!)

Don Draper’s Carousel Pitch, delivered by Bane – I do enjoy listening to things read in Bane’s voice…

friday linked list: redlining’s continuing effects, VW engineer sentenced to prison, break up monopolies!

How Redlining’s Racist Effects Lasted for Decades – a sad reminder that slavery ended 150 years ago, the Civil Rights Act was passed 50 years ago, but discrimination’s effects last a very long time.

VW engineer sentenced to 40-month prison term in diesel case – this seems appropriate, given that the code was pretty obviously intended to commit fraud. Engineers should have professional ethics like doctors and lawyers!

Bust Up America’s Monopolies Before They Do More Harm – this is a good idea.

Boston Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Steal Signs Against Yankees – well, that’s new. (although sign stealing is very very not new!) Here’s a step-by-step view of what they did.

– So KFC made a VR escape room to teach employees how to fry chicken and it is super weird and worth a watch.

Relationship Problems? Try Getting More Sleep – this is definitely a thing. (thanks David!)

Playing board games can make you a nicer person with better relationships – hey, I play board games! 😛 (thanks Emily!)

– A Delta plan flew into San Juan as Hurricane Irma was hitting to help evacuate people. A Wired story points out that the real risk was to the plane (if it had had to stay there when the rest of the storm hit it would have almost certainly been destroyed), but still!

Houston’s Mayor Was Right to Not Evacuate – this point has been made a number of places, but it was nice that the guy who lost to Mayor Turner is defending his decision.

The ‘Cajun Navy’s’ secret weapon for saving lives: The human voice – neat!

To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now – while the article compares Apple of today with Kodak from the 1980s, the problem is certainly not limited to Apple. It’s concerning that companies are creating fewer middle-class jobs these days.

The Worst (and Best) Places to Be Gay in America – from the article

In Waco, Tex., the lone justice of the peace who presides over weddings recently admitted that she won’t do so for same-sex couples no matter the federal law. But Houston, just a three-hour drive away, has in instances been a pioneer: Annise Parker, its mayor from 2010 to 2016, is the only openly L.G.B.T. person ever elected to lead one of the nation’s 10 most populous cities. And Austin, the state’s capital, is practically Key West, Fla. — minus the coconuts.

Yay Houston and Austin!

State Department reports new instance of American diplomats harmed in Cuba – they’re apparently being harmed by some kind of “sonic harassment attacks”, which is pretty weird.

It’s been 10 years since the Rangers beat the Orioles, 30-3, and it’s still brutal – that is a lot of runs!

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries review

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic QuandariesDeath by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was kind of interesting, and the “lots of short chapters” format works well. But I’ve come to the realization that I’m not a huge fan of Tyson’s writing. To me, it comes off as kind of condescending and pretentious – not in a big way, but enough to be irritating. Am I the only one that feels this way?

View all my reviews