Posts Tagged ‘aboriginal’

Feminist and Aboriginal science with Lillian Dyck #AAASmtg

// February 28th, 2012 // Comments Off on Feminist and Aboriginal science with Lillian Dyck #AAASmtg // Science Communication

Hon. Lillian Dyck, first female and Aboriginal senator in Canada, took the stage at the AAAS conference to discuss western science, feminist science and Aboriginal science.

Subjectivity is inherent in the western scientific method, she said. We use inductive reasoning, interpret data, and models that are not ideal (eg. animals). A hypothesis may be generated by hunches, mistakes, or serendipity, as well as logical questioning. This, she said, is something we don’t usually acknowledge.

In fact, people try to hide it. In writing up a paper, the sequence of experiments and even the thinking process can be adapted to fit the prescribed, logical process of SCIENCE. We leave out illogical sources of ideas, even if they were important. We remove ourselves by using the third person, and our experience by using the passive voice.

Thus we perpetuate the notion of purely rational, logical science.

However, facts do not exist in a vacuum. Scientists are subject to cultural bias. Though numbers don’t lie, we do interpret what they mean.

Her example of bias in scientific thinking was the Thrifty gene hypothesis describing genetic causes of diabetes in First Nations people. For a long time it was believed a faulty genetic ability that stored extra calories in case of famine was responsible for the disease. Actually, there wasn’t any proof of it at all. You can read the story at “How the diabetes-linked ‘thrifty gene’ triumphed with prejudice over proof” from Globe & Mail, Feb 2011.

How can we correct the bias in science? She says, by knowing and acknowledging it, even taking advantage of human bias.

Feminist science does this, she says.

Feminist science
– is openly biased (doesn’t pretend to be unbiased)
– exposes male bias and the patriarchal nature of western science
– is non-hierarchical
– is by, with and for a community, collaborative
– this pdf article Can there be a feminist science? may be a useful reference.

She says feminist science has changed science as a whole, moving it to a point where collaborative, team research is now the norm.

What about different ways of thinking in different cultures? Not only do different cultures have particular traditional knowledge of areas like astronomy and medicine, they also have particular processes to gain knowledge.

Her heritage is Chinese and Cree, and she mentioned ways of knowing that emphasised listening skills, elders, and a holistic world view (rather than analysing pieces at a time.)

People have claimed only people with Indigenous minds can solve the problems of quantum physics, she said, then pointed out that person was Aboriginal. I recommend reading Dialogues between Western and Indigenous science if you’d like to know more.

Medical dictionary translates English to Yolngu Matha

// September 13th, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Science Communication

Yolŋu Matha is a language spoken by the Indigenous Australians of Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory. To the majority of the people in the communities, English is a second language. There’s a twelve year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people, which is pretty drastic. It’s made worse because there’s a massive communication gap between the doctors and patients.

Just last week, ARDS released a new dictionary that translates medical phrases into Yolŋu Matha. Here’s some examples:

DNA – djinaga’puy wäyuk or djinawa’wuy wäyuk
English: DNA is found inside every cell of our body. It acts like a law that is not easily changed. It controls what kind of cell each cell grows into e.g. a skin cell, or liver cell or brain cell. It also controls what work each cell does.
Yolŋu Matha: Dhuwaliyi ŋunhi djinawa’wuy wäyuk, ŋunhiny ŋayi ŋuli ga ŋorra ŋunhan bili yan ṉapuŋgan ŋunhiliyin ŋunhi nhänhamiriw waka’ rumbalwu yäku cell-ŋura dhuwal rumbalŋura limurruŋgal. Ga rommirr ŋayi dhuwaliyi djinawa’wuynydja wäyuk, ŋunhi ŋanya dhu bäyŋun nhakun yuwalktja rrorru’. Ga buŋgawayirrnydja ŋayi ŋuli ga ŋunhi bukmakkun dhiyak cell-wuny mala nhaltjan ŋayi dhu walalany dhanuŋdhun rommirriyam balanya nhakun: ŋanakpuy dhuwal rumbalpuy cell-nha ga bamburuŋburuŋbuynha cell-nha ga biḏila’puynha cell-nha. Ga ŋunhi ŋayi ŋuli goŋ-dhawar’yundja bala ŋayi ŋuli djämamirriyaman ŋunhi cell-nhany mala

hormone – dhäwu-gänhamirr wiyika’

English: Hormones are substances that are produced in our body and carried by our blood. Each hormone has its own message to give to our body.
Yolŋu Matha: “Hormone”-dja dhuwal wiyika’ mala ŋunhi ŋuli ga ŋamaŋamayunmirr dhiyal rumbalŋur limurruŋgal, ga gämany walalany ŋuli ga ŋunhi maŋguy’nha. Ga bukmakthu “hormone”-dhu ga gäna-gana ŋayatham dhäwu mala ŋunhi walal ŋuli ga gurrupan dhipal bukmaklil rumballil limurruŋgal.

How awesome is that?

Why moths circle lamps, and darkness is our friend

// July 16th, 2010 // 3 Comments » // How Things Work

Sydney Opera House. Image by Froge

I wear my sunglasses at night. It’s for the light pollution. New Scientist today sent out a plea to bring back the night for wildlife’s sake, particularly birds, bats and turtles.

Moths are also at risk to death by light. In Australia, the Bogong moths cause October plagues around Sydney and Canberra. They swarm houses, government buildings, and sometimes land on bosoms of opera singers during the Sydney Olympics (or was that the Hawk moth?)

The reason for the plague is simple, we stupidly built cities near their migratory paths. Every spring the Bogong moth travels from the plains to the mountains, to get away from the heat. They spend the summer lying dormant in caves, aestivating (hibernating in the summer.)

Aboriginal groups would sometimes collect them, cooked they taste nutty and are an excellent source of protein. Unfortunately it’s not an option anymore because they eat stacks of pesticide as caterpillars on the plains.

It’s a common thing to see a moth circling a lightbulb. Why do they do it? They aren’t actually attracted to the bright lights, it’s a mistake in navigation. At least, according to one theory, though there are others I like this one best.

Bogong Moths, Image by Pbpanther

When moths make the migration, they need to know how the hell to get to the mountains. I sail by the stars, but moths fly by the moon. By keeping the moon at a certain angle to the side, they can fly in a particular direction. For example, if you know the moon is in the north and you want to go west, you would keep the moon on your right hand side. I think a similar method was used in Apollo 11, when their navigation systems were down (I’m going by a vague recollection of Tom Hanks following the Earth out the window of the ship.)

It works because the moon is so far away the angle doesn’t change as you move. But imagine you tried the same thing with a street light. If you kept the light on your right, you’d end up going around in circles. Just like moths do.

Some moths don’t fly in circles around light, they just WAP into them. They might be using the same method, but aiming directly for the moon instead of keeping it to one side.

In Adelaide we have trees with lights mounted to shine up on them all night. I would like to know if it damages tree growth or the native wildlife around it. What are your thoughts, and when was the last time you really saw the stars?

A Schooner of Science could be Australia’s best science blog, but only with your vote! If you enjoyed reading, take a second to vote for me here.






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