Tag Archives: science

Sexist Lego and the power of Ideas

Image: David Horsey/Los Angeles Times

Image: David Horsey/Los Angeles Times

That’s something I’ve thought for a while, to be honest, and I know that I’m in no way the only one. I suppose a product that revolves around the use of bricks and involves building things would inevitably be geared more towards males due to our cultural association of construction with males, but it does seem somewhat unduly male-centric, especially considering that when Lego began there was nothing particularly gender-specific about any of the sets that they produced. They did produce a range with the rather dated title of ‘Homemaker’ between 1971 and 1982, and I remember playing as a child with this set that my Mum had:

lego homemaker living room

I can’t say that I ever saw this as particularly feminine, and even now can’t help but see it as still quite gender neutral. However, I remember growing up in the 1990s and seeing these rather gender-specific sets:

Untitled

 

They look incredibly crap now, but the thing to note from them is that Lego decided to make the people look like dolls rather than the standard yellow cubey people we all know and love. All of the sets were horribly stereotyped in their focus, looking very much like a pathetic attempt at Barbie rip-offs, and I was almost glad to not have to look at them any more when they vanished from our shelves. However, in a much-publicised move, Lego resurrected their female-friendly lines with Lego ‘Friends’ in 2012, which even though it is less shitty-looking, is still just as stereotyped, and seems to suggest that girls both don’t like to build a lot in their sets, and that all females do is swim and lounge on beaches, go to nail bars and cafes, or groom pets.

So, it has come as an enormous surprise to see one of Lego’s most recent sets in their ‘Ideas’ range:

lego female scientistsThis range is made up of designs submitted by and voted for by members of the public, and the set shows a female astronomer, palaeontologist and chemist. The set has won praise from many quarters, and personally I think that it’s fantastic not only for the profile of women in science and in scientific professions, but also for the professions depicted, too. However, I can’t help but think that really we shouldn’t be getting excited over this set. Does it not just depict three scientists? Do we need to specify that they are female? I don’t mean this in a dismissive way, but more that it should be something that we don’t need to comment on because it isn’t anything that we wouldn’t expect. Of course women can be astronomers, palaeontologists and chemists- what’s all the fuss about? Going back to the cartoon at the top, perhaps the whole idea of Lego producing this set shows that indeed it was and still is sexist in the way it operates.

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New, reclaimed, libraries etc.

More books!

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  • Solomon Northup –  12 Years a Slave     £1.25
  • The Britannica Book of Genetics     50p
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels –  The Communist Manifesto     1 of 3 for £1
  • Michel Foucault –  Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison     2 of 3 for £1
  • Henrik Ibsen –  Four Major Plays     3 of 3 for £1
  • Patrick Moore –  On the Moon     £1.99

I also picked these books up from my parents’ house:

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  • Philip Pullman –  The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well and The Tin Princess
  • Philip Reeve –  Mortal Engines
  • Eleanor Updale –  Montmorency

Yes, they are all childrens/teen fiction, but as with many of Pullman’s works, this quadrilogy of ‘Sally Lockhart’ books are as good as any adult novels in both style, plot, langauge and themes, and the Reeve book I haven’t actually read, but want to as it is a dystopian work in a similar vein to many sci-fi classics. Hell, why am I defending myself here for wanting to read or re-read children’s fiction? I feel as though this is an argument I am having with myself, and am sure that I am the only person who needs convincing that it is okay. When it comes to classic and decent fiction, the boundary between children’s and adults is decidedly and rightly blurred, and is one that is getting more and more irrelevant for me as time goes on. Blame Ted Hughes and his children’s poetry, which is also adult poetry; blame Lewis Carroll; blame Tolkein and J.K. Rowling.

…and on the theme of children’s works (and Ted Hughes) I also got this:

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I already own the tie-in version of this that was produced at the time of the film ‘The Iron Giant’, but that has certainly seen better days, and so when I saw this ‘Faber Classics’ edition with the 1980s cover restored, I thought that it was worth the £2.99 that I paid for it. You can’t tell here, but the title and the rivets around the border are all in shiny gold foil and are imbossed, which really adds to this edition and makes it a nice collectors piece. The book also looks far more substantial in this format, as the text is rather large and so the book has been padded out to over 100 pages. Also, this is the first brand new Faber & Faber book that I have bought since Seamus Heaney’s ‘Human Chain’ in paperback in 2011 (as opposed to second-hand), and so it is the first time I have seen the new Faber typeface in print:

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It looks a bit odd initially alongside the double-f logo, but I don’t think that it looks at all bad. it certainly has a nice 1920s/30s feel to it, harking back to the Faber of Eliot, and that is never a bad thing. Here is the font in greater detail, taken from their website:

 

Faber

Image: faber.co.uk

Hopefully, I may see that grace my poetry in the near future… Yeah, right. I can but dream…

Lastly, two of our local libraries have been having booksales, and so I got these few:

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  • Jon McGregor –  even the dogs     10p
  • Frank Herbert –  Hellstrom’s Hive     10p
  • Mohsin Hamid –  The Reluctant Fundamentalist     10p

…and these…

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  • Ian Fleming –  Goldfinger     25p
  • Irvine Welsh –  Trainspotting     25p
  • Thomas Hardy –  Jude the Obscure     25p
  • Philip Reeve –  Predator’s Gold     25p
  • Jenny Turner –  The Brainstorm     25p
  • Archie Brown –  The Rise & Fall of Communism     10p

 


 

I’m wondering with these new book posts whether I should start doing them monthly instead of as-and-when I buy. I just think that that would be a bit easier and make this blog a bit more tidy. Also, I hope to sort out all my arch & anth, poetry and other books soon so as we can buy some bookcases, and then I can actually start using them again and have easy access to them, rather than them being piled up and very impractical. I’ll let you know how I get on, and promise to post some pictures once the shelves are assembled and the books arranged. Watch this space!

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The Scale of the Universe — 100th post!

I’ve been wondering what I should do for my 100th post (I feel like this is a milestone I’ve reached, and an achievement that I’ve stuck with this blog for this long), and then remembered an animation that a physics teacher showed at work the other week to a class of Y10 students. I don’t know if they really appreciated it, but my mind boggled when I saw it. It really puts into perspective the position of the Earth within the wider universe, and genuinely surprised me just how incredibly small things are, as well as illustrating very well that size is only really relative. I’ve got very little else to say about it, as it speaks for itself really, but I urge you to click on this link and have a look:

The Scale of the Universe

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The baby who was unaware it was born

The word ‘caul’ means ‘helmeted head’ or ‘veil’, and is used to refer to the piece of amniotic sack that can occasionally stay attached to a baby’s head upon delivery. In the mediaeval period, being born ‘with the caul’ was seen as an indicator of good luck and a sign that the child was destined for greatness, and it may have also been believed to protect the child from evil. More recently, the caul was preserved (if present) by pressing a piece of paper against the membrane, and saved as an heirloom. It is thought that any birth involving the caul occurs once in every 80,000 births, but in some extremely rare cases, a child may be born ‘en caul’. This is where a baby is delivered entirely encased in the amniotic sack due to the waters not breaking, and the baby acts as though it is still inside the womb, being totally unaware that it has been born.

A case of this occurred during a Caesarian Section recently in Greece, and the obstetrician Dr Aris Tsigris posted this image on Facebook:

caesarean in sack

Image: SaludMedica

Having witnessed birth first-hand, this is an intense, emotional and exquisite moment, and I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to witness this- just to see your child as they are in the womb with your own eyes and without the aid of a camera or scan must be utterly breathtaking. I’m sure that for one parent, this is a moment that will stay with them forever and a day. It will definitely stay with me.

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A new theory on why civilisation dawned

That’s an interesting image to be at the top of a post about the dawn of civilisation. It would be assumed that it would be more apt for a post about the end of civilisation, but no. The idea that all life on Earth came from outer space via an asteroid has recently gained credence, with scientists expressive the belief that said asteroid could have come from Mars and brought primitive life from there, and I for one find the arguments in favour highly compelling. However, I came across an article earlier today on ‘The Times’ website that suggests a meteor may also have had something to do with man’s (and woman’s) move to sedentary living and life within urban centres (I won’t call them ‘cities’, as I don’t want to get onto that debate…).

The idea is that a meteor struck in Quebec, Canada, around 12,900 years ago, and caused the onset of the colder, drier period known as the Younger Dryas. Previously, it was thought that this change in climate came about due to the rupturing of an ice dam that let a vast quantity of fresh water into the Atlantic and subsequently stopped currents carrying warm tropical waters towards Europe. Small droplets of molten rock known as spherules have been discovered in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that match chemical fingerprints of rocks in Quebec, and which suggest that they were formed under the high pressures and heat of a meteor impact in Canada. No crater has been found yet, but it suggests that the shift to agriculture as a more reliable source of food and thus eventually sedentary living that came about due to the change in climate may have been a fluke brought about by events that begun many millions of miles away from Earth. Also, this is one of the more rare occasions where two of my loves- namely archaeology and space- can come together in the same article! I am very intrigued to see whether this is definitively proved (or at least proved as much as is possible).

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