Wednesday, April 26, 2017

This photo shows a small portion of the crowd.  People kept arriving in the rain.  Some reports said around 10,000 but I thought it was much more. 
The rain became incessant but I was kept dry by that great  .scientific invention, Goretex.  At intervals, music was provided by Stay Human, Colbert’s Late Show band.  With band leader Jon Baptiste’s fantastic piano talent, lots of brass and saxophones playing rhythmy blues jazz, I had no complaints.  Acting as host was Veritasium creator, Derek Muller.  He introduced a whole series of young people who were doing research.  The emphasis was on how much  the research could benefit us all.  Every mention of possible benefit was vigorously cheered.  Many women and people of color, including a former astronaut, were presented to show the diversity among scientists and to promote recruitment.  This was augmented by folks from the ever expanding letter sequence, LGBTQ, including one trans-man, also vigorously cheered upon self-declaration.  The inclusiveness of scientific research message was in parallel with the message that science will save us all.  Derek Muller himself seemed to put some counterbalance by admitting that applied science also caused our present plight of pollution, global warming and weaponry. He says we must know both these sides of science.  I believe it was he that made some mention of the benefit of something outside science, i.e., literature.  So science isn’t everything.  One speaker that stood out for me was Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who blew the whistle on the lead pollution in the drinking water.  For her, it was science that was the tool that revealed the problem.  She then brought out a little girl from Flint who talked about the water tasting bad and burning her skin, and how science could help the people of Flint.  I suppose the Republican governor would call that playing dirty and politicizing.  Well, screw him.  The photo shows the doctor supporting the little girl as she spoke standing on a box so as to clear the podium.  She started out shy but once she started, she cranked on to the end, getting more and more confident until she waved and smiled at the end.  Some of the water on my jacket was too salty to be rain.  So that covers the message that “Science is beneficial, inclusive and diverse”.  Next, I’ll cover some of the heavy hitter speakers and themes which I might characterize as “Science is more American than apple pie”.  Lord, I wish Unagidon were writing this.  Such depth compared to my cartoon mind.


  1. Sorry I forgot to post a title. Managed to find time to get in a gym weight lift, drink 0.4 bottle of wine and post this thing which was already in the can. Things have stabilized somewhat but I have no idea how things will come out. Right now, it's do, do , do like a Zen archer.

  2. Sounds like it was a successful event. I admire you all for turning out for it. I don't know how many here read the Franciscan publication, St. Anthony Magazine. They featured Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha on the cover of their July issue, and had a nice write-up about her. That is behind a subscriber wall. However this link is to their media blog with the same information.

  3. Here in Michigan, Doctor Hanna-Attisha is greatly admired along bipartisan lines. So is Marc Edwards, the guy from Virginia Tech whose sampling efforts uncovered the extent of the problem.

    Lord knows the politicians in favor of the emergency management of the city looked hard for ways to discredit them at first, but hard to argue with hard numbers about lead levels, toxicity, and basic facts about chemical reactions that turned some Flint water pipes into lead tainted water delivery systems.

    Racial tensions in Flint have always been high, and Flint residents have often been sneered at as down and dirty blue collar shop rats. The fact that residents are working together to keep the issue alive and that the "shop rats" have educated themselves about the myriad issues involved here--from the way lead affects the human body, to methods of water treatment, to crumbling infrastructure, to some politicians hoping to benefit from the crisis--all of that is testimony to the fact that some level of scientific knowledge is critical to good citizenship.

    Thanks for posting, Stanley.

    1. I read somewhere that Flint's water had as high as 14 parts per million lead. I found that mind-blowing, since part of my job is testing an electronics factory's effluent for heavy metals. Our permit limit for lead per the state's department of environmental quality is less than a tenth of 14 ppm. That's for water going into the sewer, not tap water.

    2. Oh, it was as high as 1,O00 ppb in one home. However, some homes were fine. It varied by neighborhood and individual dwellings. Here are the findings from 2015.

      The home page for this site lists some of the ripple effects that the crisis has had on Flint. It is worth a browse.

  4. As for "science will save is all," I think Kurt Vonnegut is an anodyne to that. I just finished "Slaughterhouse-Five" for the umpteenth time preparatory to a lit class. In reading 21st lit crit about Vonnegut, it's pretty clear that newer scholars see his work in light of his skepticism about science in the hands of humans and their "too big" brains.

    Margaret Atwood's trilogy about biotech run amok in her trilogy--"Oryx and Crake," "The Year of the Flood," and "Madd Adam"--is another example of lit trying to yank the reins of applied science.

    Dave Eggers ditto with a kind of cybernetic warning in "The Circle."

    Do scientists read these types of things? Are the warnings pesuasive?

  5. Science can of course be used for both good and bad ends. Some of the sci-fi literature are good cautionary tales. I read some of the Asimov robot series years ago, the ones witb Elijah Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw. Sometimes I was cheering for the robots because they were nicer people than the people. Now with robotics in the news so much, they seem a little eerily prescient. Though I think people have a weird fascination with dystopian future novels, kind of "what if", not that they necessarily think things will play out that way.