SLEEP PART 1

Right now, I’m just getting ready to start work.  It’s 5.19pm on a Friday afternoon, which seems a bit of an unorthodox time to begin such things, but allow me to explain.

Firstly, I work two jobs at the moment.  Monday to Thursday I’m an engineer; Friday to Sunday I’m a PhD researcher.  So I have a little more flexibility at the weekend.  I’ll probably work up until about 10pm tonight, and in bursts of activity over the next two days.  I like the flexibility that I have in my studies, and because I have no set hours I can just get to work on an idea whenever it occurs to me.

The second thing is that I have a thyroid problem, which makes me s-l-e-e-p-y. Like, really sleepy. Much like the teenager who goes to school on time Monday to Friday, then sleeps half the weekend, I have a lot of catching up to do. I really struggle to be awake when societal constraints dictate that I should be, so I spend half the week fighting my body’s wishes, and the other half over-indulging them.

If left to my own devices I can happily sleep for over 12 hours. And last night that’s what I did. A full, glorious 14 hours. And I feel so refreshed. Now it’s time to do some work.

MANCHESTER ARMCHAIR PHILOSOPHERS – CENSORSHIP

CensorshipI attend the Manchester Armchair Philosophers group, and we meet once a month at the Royal Oak in Chorlton to discuss a preselected topic. The topics are varied, and often unconventional. This month’s discussion was on a topic that is a little more commonplace, but sure to get everyone’s attention.

I introduced our talk on Censorship, which posed the questions in the handout (right). As with many of these talks, the idea isn’t strictly to adhere to the prescribed questions and wording on the crib sheet, but to discuss the topic widely, and in whatever style or vein one desires.

The way the meetings work is that we all gather in a circle and the topic is introduced by the Chair. Then we break off into groups of 4 or 5 and discuss the topic amongst ourselves. We usually talk about the subject for, say, 45 minutes, and then we gather around the table again to share our thoughts and opinions with the whole group. We usually first nominate one member of each ‘team’ to describe the whole team’s discussion, and then we go round the circle individually to talk about something we learnt or feel strongly about. It’s really interesting to hear other people’s ideas, and you can learn so much from other people’s debates, as well as your own.

Usually, people gather in the bar downstairs after the debate, sometimes to carry on the discussion, and often to talk about completely unrelated (but still stimulating) things.

I don’t have the space (or memory) to go into everything that we spoke about here, but censorship is a massive topic that everyone has a view on. Some discussions can lead to groupthink, but this one really didn’t. Despite being in a large group of people with (seemingly) similar backgrounds and political preferences, the variety of viewpoints was very wide, and all over the spectrum. I was pleasantly surprised! I also got a lot of praise for introducing this topic, which felt pretty good. I hope to do another one sometime, but we seem to have topics chosen for a good few months yet.

Previous discussions have included: “Love”, “Is there such a thing as a truly altruistic action?”, and “Is there really any poverty in the UK?”. As you can see, we really have a lot to talk about.

NB: No formal philosophy training required. Most people who turn up don’t have any formal philosophy education, but we do love to explore philosophical subjects. The group is accessible and a great night out, no matter what your training.

This book (Do You Think What You Think You Think?) is a really manageable (and rather fun) pop introduction to philosophy. You’ll probably find it infuriating at first – I wanted to yell at this book in a similar way to how I shout at Question Time – but it’s just encouraging you to think critically about what you believe and what you say you believe. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to leave much room for manoeuvre, with quite rigid and simplistic ways of looking at an argument; but it gets you thinking, right?

INSPIRATION

The name for this blog came from my four-year-old daughter, who tearfully said to me, “I can’t be a science lady, because I can’t do science”. This filled me with both joy and sadness, because on the one hand I thought the concept of “science ladies” sounded quite sweet (although I usually refer to myself as a scientist, rather than a science lady – for some reason it sounds a bit more professional); and on the other I wondered who had given this idea to a four-year-old child.

There are many articles, papers, and stories in the media about how our attitudes towards women’s abilities and career choices are shaped at a very young age. My current favourite is this one, from The Huffington Post:Powerful Ad Shows What A Little Girl Hears When You Tell Her She’s Pretty

Additionally, this is one of my favourite books on the topic: Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine.

In this book, the author describes a systematic review of various studies that consider gender differences, and encourages the reader to think critically about what the outcomes of such studies really tell us. You can buy the book and check out some very detailed customer reviews via the link on the right.

Oh, and you can be a science lady, if you want to. It’s hard work but definitely worth it.