Thursday, March 27, 2008

Making Chemistry Relevant to Grrrls

Alternate title: Young Female Scientists Expose the Truth of the Beauty Industrial Complex. That is way too charitable. I am going with: How to make chemistry more relevant to girls, because mixing cool stuff that explodes or Mentos + Diet Coke is not enough, here's a gem from the NYT:

Along with 10 other girls chewing over rumors of ingredients like skunk oil and pulverized fish scales, the two had traveled with parents in tow to the Museum of Science here three weeks ago to attend a Saturday seminar called Cosmetic Chemistry.

In a basement classroom decorated with a wall chart of birds’ nests and a glass display case containing a stuffed swan, the students performed what amounted to a dissection of various brand-name lipsticks. Then they cooked up their own balms.

Breaking down cosmetics into component parts served to reinforce the basic scientific inquiry process — purpose, method, results, conclusion — a system of logic familiar to any student who ever took a lab course.

PURPOSE With a red apron firmly tied around her waist, Chi-Ting Huang, a museum volunteer, opened the class with a brief overview of cosmetic ingredients. Dr. Huang, whose Ph.D. is in biochemistry, is a scientist at a company that makes cancer drugs.

Dr. Huang, whose mother used to work as a chemist who formulated shampoos, designed the course last year with fifth to seventh graders in mind. She wanted to pique young women’s interest in science by teaching them a bit of chemistry about everyday consumer items, she said.

Dude, WTF. Little girls don't want to learn about curing cancer from a cancer research doctor, or don't want to blow up stuff? And TD wonders why I study gender theory in addition to my empirical work. Man, this paper blows.

I still would rather read the NYT than the local crappy newspaper, but I swear, picking at the NYT must be a rite of passage signaling the transition from youth to adulthood, the natural state into the social contract, blithe ignorance to bourgieness. You are just an over-educated adult living in a major metropolitan area with too much access to alternate media and original sources due to your academic proxy server--until you learn to criticize the NYT. This means that I have made it. Take that, impoverished and ignorant childhood!

When I was little, there was no better paper to me than the NYT, even though I grew up working at the LA Times. Of course, when I was little, I used to sleep on bales of newspaper while my parents worked at night, and reading newspapers was how I learned to read higher than my age level. I have grown beyond that now. I sleep on real beds, read insufferably dense academic texts, work at night doing non-physical labor, and can tell good papers from bad papers. Now, there's no great paper out there at all, not even the WSJ. This makes me sad. The little eight year old kid in me who didn't know the meaning of "pecuniary" wants to cry. Now, I'd rather read the LA Times than the NYT. Take that, Sulzbergers.

Every time I read about some immigrant kid missing the point of The Great Gatsby and being written up as a little refugee from reality, I want to break something. Let alone when I stupidly read a Modern Love column that will become yet another crappy book. Or the most recent pointless essay that makes me want to slap some sense into Francophones, aka New Yorkers with disposable income. The NYT sucks.

Why do I keep reading the NYT? Why, when we're having breakfast on Sunday, do I want to spend $5--$5!--for a paper so that we can exchange sections, read, bitch a little, exchange sections, bitch some more, over pancakes that cost less than our paper?! Part of me feels like the girlfriend in the tedious relationship that's being dragged out after no longer being good for either person, but is just pointless ritual--a habit, a daily fix, and I'm too lazy to look for something better. Also, I like to complain. And what else would I blog about?