Science

Opinion: Let's Stop Taking Celebrity Advice on Health

By Andrew Campbell - Flickr

By Andrew Campbell - Flickr

 

TAKING CELEBRITY ADVICE ON HEALTH IS GETTING OUT OF HAND

Tom Brady is a hotshot celebrity NFL player, if you haven't heard of him before.  If you have heard of him, and watch the NFL to any extent, you either love him with a passion, or hate him with one.  So, as plenty of celebrities tend to do, Tom Brady recently came out with a book back in September.  (We're all talking about it now because he was in the Super Bowl this past season.)   The kicker?  It's not about his NFL career, or his family, or anything along those lines.  No -- it's about his diet.

 

That might be okay if it didn't try to go off about the 'science' behind what he eats, and how it lowers his PH balance, and help speed recovery to the body.

 

Vox.com covered this story, having spoke to scientists about Brady's health claims.  They asked Stuart Phillips, a professor in the department of kinesiology at McMaster University, about Brady's claim that his diet effects the PH balance (lowering it, specifically) in his body.  He told Vox:"It’s next to impossible — in fact, I can’t think of an instance — where people have been able to change their blood pH with diet.  So there’s zero foundation for the notion that alkaline and acid foods [are] able to do anything to your body.”

 

His anti-inflammatory diet (which, to be noted, is not bad in itself) doesn't speed his recovery as he claims, either.  At least, there's not scientific backing for that claim.  "I don’t know a morsel of new scientific knowledge [supporting] what Tom Brady would like for you, that his dietary practice is linked to his career longevity or his success as an athlete.” Phillips had continued with Vox.  They had asked others, too, who said that the only post-excerise diet that had been scientifically shown to speed body recovery is "is getting enough carbohydrates to replenish glycogen that’s been depleted after a workout, or protein to help with muscle building."

 

Tom Brady is Far From Being the Only Celebrity to Spread Pseudoscience On Health, And He's Not the Worst Either

 

As Vox explained, Tom Brady's diet is actually good for you (though it is a little on the extreme side), and if you were to follow his diet, you most likely wouldn't hurt yourself.  Though, it should be noted that any major diet change should be expressed to a doctor, because every diet effects everyone differently. The harm of following celebrity advice though, for reasons that are not based in science is a real issue however.

 

Take Gwyneth Paltrow, who we have discussed before. She is arguably the worst offender in spreading health pseudoscience in recent history.  The celebrity, probably known to most as playing Pepper Potts in recent years, has her own website in which is is constantly writing about the health benefits of stickers and putting external items into specific holes in your body (don't do this unless it has been recommended by your doctor).  When explaining her supposed science on these topics, she doesn't ever mention her supposed experts, and she has been known to block her critics on social media, which doesn't add any credibility to her.

 

Then take supposed celebrity doctors as Doctor Oz, who has been in court many times for advertising false claims, and you have a major problem on your hands.

 

This Common Problem Really Shouldn't Be One

 

You'd think it would be common sense not to listen to everything anyone spouts off.  You would also think it common sense to not blindly follow someone just because they are rich and you see them on your television all the time...  however.  This is where we run into this problem.  People blindly following their idols, the men and women they look up to because they seemed to have "made it".  So they must know what's going on!  They must have the best diet, fit for everyone.

 

The bottom line is that they don't.

 

People have a very hard time thinking for themselves in cases like this.  There is actually a diagnosable mental illness known as celebrity worship syndrome "Anxiety, depression, high stress levels, poor body image, isolation, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors: All of these have been linked to celebrity worship syndrome because the patient's energy is focused entirely on someone who may not even know who they are," Says Medical Daily.

 

This gives way for these celebrities, whether they mean to or not (and many of them do mean to in order to sell products) to hurt their fans.  Health claims that are not based in science are everywhere in our society, constantly.  It doesn't help in the least that some of these claims are being peddled by people who know that they have a very large following that will do anything they say, or buy anything that they promote.  People as a whole really need to stop looking to celebrity advice on maybe anything, but especially as far as health goes.

 

If you need health or diet advice, go visit your doctor. They have been medically trained in fields that these celebrity figures have not been.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Astronaut Jeanette Epps was Pulled From Her NASA Assignment; There's Only Speculation as To Why

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It was a big deal to many when it had been announced that Jeanette Epps was going to be the "first black crew member to live on board the International Space Station".  On Thursday, January 18th, however, it was announced that she would no longer be going to the International Space Station in June of this year as previously scheduled.  Instead, she would be a candidate for later assignments, while fellow astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor would be taking her place.

 

NASA did not make a comment as to why this crew change had occurred, but according to the Washington Post, Epps' brother had accused the organization of racism in a (now deleted) Facebook Post.  He had stated: “My sister Dr. Jeannette Epps has been fighting against oppressive racism and misogynist in NASA and now they are holding her back and allowing a Caucasian Astronaut to take her place!”  In addition to this statement, he had linked to a moveon.org petition that is hoping to reinstate Epps on this crew to the ISS.  As of the writing of this post, the petition is hoping to gain 3,000 signatures, and has 2,379 signatures at the current time.

 

Others had speculated that the crew change could have been due to health or family reasons that NASA would not announce on and that Epps may want to keep private.  However, according to the aforementioned Washington Post article, Epps stated that there had been no health reason or family reason to keep her behind.  She also said that she would not comment on her brother, Henry Epps', post about the situation.  The only thing she did comment on regarding her brother's post was that no one in her family had created the petition he linked to.

 

It's important to note that Epps' removal from this mission is not something that is an isolated incident.  Many astronauts have been bumped from missions before for various reasons.  Miriam Kramer, writing for Mashable, notes in one of her articles on the situation that NASA's Ken Mattingly was pulled from the Apollo 13 crew just a few days before their scheduled launch because he was exposed to German measles".

 

There's reason to believe that Jeanette Epps is not going to be excluded from future missions.  Former NASA administrator, Sean O'Keefe, says that these crew changes are common, and most of the astronauts go on to go into space at later dates.  "The exceptions are very few and far between,"  He said. 

 

It's more than likely that we will not get an official reason from NASA themselves, as they often do not comment on the crew changes.  O'Keefe has a couple speculations of his own, however, as to why Epps was replaced on this particular mission happening in June.  One of them was the idea of a health concern, which as previously stated, Epps debunked herself.  Another, however, stated how Epps and Auñón-Chancellor had different skill sets that may have determined who was better suited for this specific assignment.  "Dr. Epps is an engineer. The astronaut replacing her is a medical doctor. [It] could well be there are now more human factors research projects on the mission manifest than material science research."  Of course, though, he cannot say for sure what the reasoning was for Epps' replacement.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Gwyneth Paltrow Defends Goop, Her Pseudoscience, and Blocks Critics

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Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, long ago now, joined the group of celebrities attempting to sell the masses pseudoscience and, frankly, snake-oil. Among her are people like Dr.Oz, and celebrities and influencers who try to sell their followers detoxing tea (which are really just laxatives and don’t help you lose weight in the manner they claim).

 

Paltrow has gone so far as to creating her own online space and shop called: “Goop”.  They sell more than just their branded snake-oil.  You can also buy shoes from her that are nearly $700.  But as unnecessarily expensive as those flats are, they’re generally harmless if you’re the kind of person who can afford those shoes.  The real problem are the products that are meant to be good for your mind and body, that are anything but.

 

The latest controversy (of many) was a few months ago now — back in June, Goop promoted a company called “Body Vibes”. In case you missed it, they sell stickers that are meant to promote healing (really!).  They also claimed that these stickers were made with the same “carbon material NASA uses to line space suits”.

 

NASA had a few words to say about this. Specifically, they told Gizmodo that they “do not have any conductive carbon material lining the spacesuits.”  (The article is not intended for younger readers — strong language throughout.)  Furthermore, after the controversy, Body Vibes themselves sent out a statement apologizing for the “communication error”, claiming that they had been lied to by a distributor, and promptly took the claim off their website.

 

However, they still claim to (maybe) offer relief from pain, (perhaps) reduce inflammation, and (perchance) release you from anxiety.  Despite their product labels claiming this, they have a disclaimer at the bottom of their website that says that Body Vibes are “not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any ailment or disease …”.  But they may be able to anyway, so they say.

 

Goop has not taken down their endorsement of this product.

 

So Why Are We Talking About This Now?

 

Gwyneth Paltrow recently talked to #GirlBoss Radio and defended her lifestyle blog. "We're very clear on what we're doing. We stand behind everything we do. But unfortunately, people who are critical of us sometimes get attention for being critical of us. It gives people a platform,”  She told them.  “I wish that people would actually read the article or do their homework before they are vitriolic about it. A lot times they're not even addressing what's on the website. [Especially because] we encourage discussion and we love the back and forth. And we love different points of view.”

 

A sentiment that might hold meaning if Goop themselves hadn’t claimed things that made it seem like they hadn’t “done their homework” on the subject.

 

Rae Paoletta, space writer and the author of the aforementioned article for Gizmodo, took to twitter to question this.  “Did Goop ‘do its homework’ when it extolled the benefits of shoving jade eggs up your vagina?”  She asked, with a CNN article linked that claimed that experts were against the idea of using jade eggs to strengthen the muscles in your vagina. “Goop preys on people by tapping into their insecurities, and decades of advertising shows this is profitable,”  Paoletta continued.  “It's an old trick wrapped in something new. Marketing pseudoscience as ‘wellness’ doesn't make your product more endearing. It's still garbage, just expensive.”

 

Paoletta also brought out that Paltrow’s Goop was being investigated for 51 deceptive claims made on their website.

 

As the icing on top of the cake, Goop’s official twitter account blocked Rae Paoletta’s account, rather than standing up for themselves.

 

The Bottom Line

 

Being unable and unwilling to express and defend themselves to their critics, and childishly block said critic, shows that Goop really doesn’t have an explanation (or at least a good one) for their over four dozen claims for health.  Paltrow’s vague comment about readers and critics ‘doing their homework’ furthers this.  Instead of giving backed reasons for her claims, or speaking to and referencing an expert on the subject, she places the blame on critics.

 

When people blindly buy the products she endorses, that's when the consumer isn’t doing their research.  And though the general public needs to be more critical of the health tricks they buy into, it’s easy to believe in people we look up to — and many people look up to celebrities who claim to put the health of their fans first.

 

There’s even been studies done about this, such as this one by epidemiologist Steven J. Hoffman and science journalist Julia Belluz. They talk about how fans following celebrity’s advice on health is a form of "herd behavior”, something similar to a mob mentality. So while some blame may fall onto people for not thinking more critically before jumping into a new health trend, more of the blame falls onto these celebrities who know what they’re doing.

 

Paltrow is an Oscar Winning actress, who has continued to be successful in her acting career since her win for Shakespeare in Love.  She supposedly had a net worth of $60 million.  There is absolutely no reason she needs to be endorsing and selling these products to unsuspecting fans and other consumers.  She knows what she’s doing — she knows she’s promoting the herd behavior because it’s an effective marketing tool and always has been.  It’s greedy, and promotes pseudoscience, giving science itself a bad name and harming consumers.

 

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

We Watched the Mars Generation on Netflix - Here's What We Thought

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The moon was the first step. Ever since, we've been looking to Mars.

 

One day, someone will land a foot on Mars. That's what we're heading towards. Science, technology, and people, are all heading the same direction. There will be a generation of people to step on the red planet -- and that will be the Mars Generation.

 

The Mars Generation is a non profit organization that was founded by Abigail Harrison (better known online as Astronaut Abby) back in 2015.  This year, the program raised over $11K to help send kids in poverty to space camp so that they could learn about STEM, and also to help encourage physical activity. The program itself was something that FemSTEM supported itself, and we were able to help raise $115 towards the cause thanks to our readers.

 

So, after this was all said and done, I got a chance to sit down and watch the Netflix and TIME documentary on The Mars Generation. Parts of the movie got me excited and riveted, while other parts created somewhat of a lull.

 

The movie itself has a 6.6/10 rating on IMDb as of the writing of this article.  That's where I would place the movie myself.  Let's talk about the positives first.

 

Positive Aspects of the Mars Generation

 

The movie was very good at getting you excited about the prospect of humankind heading to Mars. As the movie pointed out, a lot of people have forgotten that NASA even exists these days. People don't think we're going to be doing anymore space travel, but that, of course, is quite the opposite of what humankind really has planned. It reminded the viewer that NASA had huge plans and that they were taking as many steps as possible towards that plan (even with the tiny amount of government funding they have).

 

When the documentary showed the children doing their work, the movie was extremely engaging. They captured the failures and successes of these children, which painted them as real people that the average audience member could relate to. This is a great aspect of the film, especially for any children watching from home. To be able to see that these kids -- who are extremely smart -- don't get it right on the first try is great for them. It makes the goal of getting into STEM fields more realistic and attainable.

 

In general, the editing was very nice as well; it was smooth, consistent, and linear.

 

Negative Aspects of the Mars Generation

 

I did not think that the film showed enough of the kids.  The Mars Generation program itself is about sending the next generation off into space to discover the red planet. There was far too much emphasis, in my opinion, on people like Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse Tyson.

 

The film never made the movie about the older and more experienced scientists, but their commentary gave the film a bit of a lull after a while. I wasn't watching the documentary to hear from them -- I was watching to see the kids, and to watch what they went through in order to make steps to getting to Mars.  I will say that I think the edition of experienced scientists was needed, but I thought that the balance wasn't there.  For me, this was a huge disappointment in the film.

 

And while I understand it makes for good publicity to have celebrities on your documentary, I can go ahead and watch Bill Nye's new show any time. Or listen to Tyson's podcast. Or watch Michio Kaku on the Science Channel whenever.  It might have been better to have interviewed or heard from people who worked with the kids, or who were astronauts themselves.  And we did hear from them, but not nearly as much as we heard from the celebrity scientists.

 

Overall, however, the movie was good and worth a watch.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Interview: Taylor Richardson is Taking the Space World By Storm

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Back in January, one girl decided to help other girls see the movie Hidden Figures so that they could be inspired to get into STEM. Taylor Richardson is a 13-year-old aspiring astronaut who is a huge activist in her community.  She had started an anti-bullying campaign, and she’s also a huge advocate for STEM fields.

 

Her mother, Toni Richardson, supports her all the way.  According to a Medium article about their story, Toni moved Taylor from South Carolina to Florida after Taylor was, unfortunately, bullied at her previous school.  She also helped start Taylor’s aforementioned GoFundMe campaign to send 100 girls to watch Hidden Figures, where they raised over $17,000 in just a month.

 

Taylor and Toni have been featured in many articles online and in other mainstream media because of their efforts.  From Fusion to Forbes, more and more people heard about their efforts.  Taylor also participated in April’s “March for Science” on Earth Day.

 

I was lucky enough to get in touch with Taylor and Toni Richardson, and Taylor agreed to answer some questions for me about how she 'rocks STEM' and how she decided to get her Hidden Figures campaign started, as well as some of her plans for the future.  Her answers below are inspirational and, frankly, quite amazing.

 

Q:  Hello, Taylor!  Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to fill these questions out!  You and your mother have been absolutely wonderful so far!

A: Thank you for speaking with me. It's truly an honor. I am a huge fan.  Thank you for your contributions in STEM as well.

 

Q:  So, I’m sure you’ve told this story before, but I wanted to ask you: what sparked your love for space and NASA? What made you want to become an astronaut?

A:  I've been interested in space and stars since I was five. What is outside our world. You know.  But when I read Find Where The Wind Goes by Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American women to go into space, I was really excited.  And then when I turned nine and old enough to attend space camp in Alabama I was like ‘I want to be an astronaut or do something in the STEM field to work for NASA one day’.

 

Q:  Could you explain to our readers what makes the study of space, and really science in general, so important to you?

A:  Wow, it’s a lot of reasons, but the main reason now to me is promoting science and space education in girls.  We need to inspire younger generations of girls to know that science/STEM  isn't a boy or girl game, it's everyone's game.  That it's important that girls know that with hard work they can not only become an aeronautical engineer whose job is to design a spaceship that could fly to Mars, but actually be the astronaut who's inside it. It's important to me that I use my platform to engage, inspire and have girls act on being in STEM fields.

 

Q:  The big news that went pretty viral about you was how you raised money for girls to watch Hidden Figures for free!  That’s amazing! What inspired you to raise the money for this cause? And was it difficult to raise the money? 

A:  I was inspired to raise money for a few girls to see the movie after attending a special screening at the White House with the cast and former First Lady, Michelle Obama.  Mrs. Obama said we as girls have to do the work and take those hard math classes and we have to keep the door open for girls to follow behind us.  So that inspired me to do a GoFundMe and raise money for a 100 girls in my city and give them the book to promote not only STEM, but literacy as well.

 

I still can't believe that I raised  almost $20,000, inspiring fundraisers in 28 states in 72 cities. I just wanted girls to see this movie and to see that we, as women/girls, even in the worst environments could still be great and do great things.  I wasn't sure if I would raise the money, but it wasn't difficult to raise because there were so many people who, like me, believed in the cause — which was to get girls to this movie so they could dream big and see girls who look like them achieving unbelievable tasks.  I'm really proud and so humbly grateful to everyone who contributed and changed lives in many little girls — over a 1000 of them in Jacksonville alone.

 

Q:  Because of what you did for your community and girls everywhere, you’ve been featured on a lot of different platforms recently.  Everything from womenyoushouldknow.net  to People Magazine.  How have you felt about this?  Has this attention been somewhat overwhelming?

A: I feel really good about it.  The attention from the many different and diverse platforms helps little girls who not only look like me but all girls see a girl in a blue suit and wonder can I be that or better yet I will be that. So I'm grateful for it.   I've talked with Forbes, Motto Time, even BBC News in the U.K. So it's amazing to help girls see we can not only be at the STEM table, but lead it.  The Hidden Figures movie, along with all the media attention, just makes it that much better for us girls.  It's showing representation matters in not only race but gender as well.

 

The attention has been a little overwhelming in that I'm really quiet and reserved, but it's given me a platform now to speak out and I'm not going anywhere. But it's all good, especially if we can inspire just one to know they can be at the STEM table.

 

Q:  Do you have any specific goals for your schooling?  A certain college you might want to attend, or other aspirations for your school career?  

A:  I am still middle school at the Bolles School and its curriculum is definitely keeping me engaged and preparing me for success.   I use my summers and some time during the year to attend robotics or engineering or flight events.  Of course visiting various space centers.  Wow, college.  I would love to tour and maybe attend  MIT, California Institute of Technology, or Clark Atlanta University to name a few and major in engineering or math. And I want to take flight lessons. That's about it for now, since I'm just 13. Lol.

 

Q:  If someone comes up to you, and asks you for advice on how to get started down the path of heading to space, what advice do you think you’d give them?

A:  I would tell youth to read everything they can find about it, find a mentor or maybe several, check out a few space centers, an internship, and then if still interested get busy in the classroom. As Mrs. Obama said, put down that snapchat and get into those advanced math and science classes. And most importantly, make sure you have a passion for space, not just for the money, but understand the unknown and ways to make our world a better place.

 

Q:  Thank you so much, again, for sitting down with us.  Our readers will very much enjoy this, I know it, and we truly appreciate it.  Good luck with everything, Taylor!

A: Thank you for speaking with me. Keep in touch.

 

 
 

Taylor Richardson Helped Send 14-year-old Kaitlyn to Space Camp!

 

 
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We recently interviewed Taylor Richardson, a young, aspiring astronaut, who raised money so that girls could watch the movie Hidden Figures for free.  Her good heart hasn't stopped there, though.

 

Recently Taylor Richardson, and her mother Toni Richardson, held an essay writing contest. The lucky winner would win a trip to a Space Camp.  "My first GoFundMe was to get me to Space Camp," Taylor told me.  "so I figured why not use the last bit of proceeds to help someone else go."

 

That lucky winner wound up being 14-year-old Kaitlyn Ludlam, and she will be going to a Space Camp in Huntsville, Al.

 

Kaitlyn herself said that she's been involved in STEM for as long as she can remember.  "For a long time I have designed, built, and programmed robots," Kaitlyn said in her essay.  "I have spent a lot of my free time studying Chemistry, Hydrology, Demography, Biology, Ecology, and every type of math availiable to me. [...]  After I go to college, I dream of becoming an engineer. [...]  I want to learn what I could do in the discovery of what is outside our planet and understand the phenomenons of space. Any book I read or article I find can never replace what I can learn at space camp."

 

Taylor Richardson surprised Kaitlyn at her school to announce Kaitlyn's win.  "I surprised her at her school,"  Taylor told me via email. "Did that and went straight to [my] school.  Long day, but productive."

 

Taylor's legacy of supportive and successful fundraising will not end there, either.  She told me:  "I'm about to start another campaign to raise funds for me and mom to travel to California, Massachusetts, New York and Texas [in the] summer. There are camps at these places like YEA camp (omg so excited) Black Girls Lead, and of course space centers.  My goal is get enough funds to travel and donate extra funds to these organizations for another kid next year."

 

FemSTEM will absolutely be supporting Taylor in her future endeavors as she continues to support and inspire other young girls in STEM.

 

And congrats, Kaitlyn! We read your essay, and you deserved this! 

 

 

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

But What If She’s Just Not Interested in STEM?

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Every day there is more and more encouragement on the internet and other forms of media for girls to get into STEM fields and to thrive in them.  From shows on PBS, to Twitter threads and Facebook groups, and lots and lots of news stories about girls thriving in STEM in order to encourage other girls to get into STEM.

 

This …might be a cause of some anxiety for some parents depending on some things.

 

What if she’s just not interested in STEM? 

 

The fact is, we should all be interested in STEM to some degree.  Not only will some interest help us get through our schooling (if I had more of an interest in Math, it would have helped me a ton), but there’s something we need to face.  STEM is in our every day lives, whether we like it or not.  Without STEM there would be no computers, or smart phones, or televisions.  Without STEM there wouldn’t be the plants outside, or the pets within our houses!  We wouldn’t even have our homes, if you think about it!  Construction takes a lot of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math!

 

If we don’t have an interest in STEM at all, we don’t have an interest in a lot of life. Without you even realizing it, some of your interests (if not most of your interests) are going to be linked in STEM.  This is also true for your daughters (and sons, of course).

 

Another fact: Truthfully? Though we might not have a career in it, we all are scientists.

 

Something to consider might be: is she not interested in STEM, or has she just not been exposed to it enough?

 

There’s lots of ways to expose your girls to STEM that make it fun and enjoyable for them.  More and more books about STEM are coming out for younger ages, and more and more programs exist to get girls into STEM.

 

[caption id="attachment_465" align="aligncenter" width="700"]<a href="http://www.surlatoile.com/WomenInScience/"><img class="wp-image-465" src="https://femstem.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/DSC_2912-1024x685.jpg" alt="women in science" width="700" height="469" /></a> From luanagames.com[/caption]

 

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Here are a few for your viewing pleasure*:

 

#GirlsWhoCode - A national non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology.

STEM Girls Books - A company in development with three picture books coming out around Summer of 2017.

Women in Science the Card Game - An original, fun and educational card game that includes 44 different women for your children to learn about! Plus an expansion pack!

STEMBox - A monthly subscription box that sends science experiments to your door.

Beyond Curie Posters - A slew of posters of women scientists. Perfect for a classroom, or a bedroom!

Sasha Tech Savvy Loves to Code - A children’s book that hasn’t been released yet, but should come out soon!

Launch Ladies - Another children’s book (for very little ones) that will be released soon about Women in Space.

 

But Here’s the Bottom Line:

 

There should be NO PRESSURE for your child to have a career in STEM.  Everyone is different, everyone has different interests, and not everyone wants to be a scientist for a living.  That’s okay — of course it is.  There’s been a bigger push for women to come into science lately, but that’s because there’s a lot of opportunity there and everyone should know that this is an option for them if they want to go that route.

 

But if they don’t — that’s of course okay.

 

We’re going to continue to encourage girls to be interested in STEM, but there’s no pressure.

 

*this post was not sponsored

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Does Climate Change Contribute to Depression, PTSD, and other Mental Health Problems?

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Originally Posted April 4th, 2017

 

The American Psychological Association recently came out with a study suggesting that climate change is bad for our mental wellbeing, and can aid in developing mental illnesses such as depression and PTSD.

 

The study was paired with ecoamerica.org, a company that “builds institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate solutions in the United States”, as well as with Climate for Health, a “national initiative led by a diverse network of health leaders from across the health sector representing key health care, public health, clinical, and medical institutions and associations”.

 

This isn’t the first time this thought has been addressed, and it won’t be the last time.  “The mental health effects of climate change are gaining public attention,” says the study (page 21). “A 2016 government report (U.S. Global Change Research Program) reviewed a large body of research to summarize the current state of knowledge.”

 

This particular study separates the effects of climate change on mental health into two categories: acute impacts and chronic impacts.

 

The acute impacts are “immediate and severe psychological trauma,” according to the study.  These would be things like how a climate change-induced disaster may immediately create a toll for those who got hurt because of the impacts, who’s loved ones or loved pets got harmed as a result, or even property damage.

 

Because of these immediate impacts, though “for most people, acute symptoms of trauma and shock are reduced after conditions of security have been restored,” illnesses such as PTSD and depression can develop.  For instance, according to the study, one in six people who were affected by Hurricane Katrina (2005) have met the criteria needed to be diagnosed with PTSD.

 

The chronic impacts are sustained impacts such as the relationship between heat and aggression.  “Lab-based experiments and eld-based surveys have demonstrated a causal relationship between heat and aggression,” says the study. “In other words, as the temperature goes up, so does aggression.”

 

The rising heat has also been thought to deteriorate social communities.  Because being outside is uncomfortable in hot, sticky weather, people are more likely to stay indoors to be cool.  The more this happens, the more anti-social the human race as a whole can become.  A lack of social interaction has been shown to contribute to depression.

 

Are There Solutions?

 

Short of just solving negative climate change as a whole, there are some things that can be done.

 

The study suggests that mental health professionals become literate as to what’s going on with climate to better understand the impact it may have on their clients.  Individuals who are not mental health professionals are encouraged to have a safety plan for if and when a major weather disaster happens, and to learn “resilience interventions” (pages 53-55) to help themselves out as much as they possibly can.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

 

These "Beyond Curie" Posters are Perfect For Your Classroom

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Originally Posted February 27th, 2017

This design project headed by design strategist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is anincredible collection of 32 women who pioneered STEM fields in one way or another.  Beyond Curie is a project meant to bring light to these women, and while not ignoring the incredible feats that Marie Curie did herself, everyone knows who she is.  This project is meant to diversify the knowledge that students have of these incredible women, and every dollar that Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s Kickstarter makes beyond what production costs are will go toward the Association for Women in Science.

 

Who Exactly are the Women Included?

 

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s design project includes every woman who has ever won a Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine/Physiology, as well as 16 other women who brought their own dose of amazing to the science table.

 

Women noted include, but are not limited to, Lise Meitner, Mae Jemison, and Maryam Mirzakhani.  Each poster has a very unique design, meant to bring out what each scientist did in her work, as well as add some wonderful color to the classroom (or even your home if you so choose — forget those boy band posters!  Put these in your girl’s room).

 

What’s the Story Behind This Project?

 

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is the founder of The Leading Strand, an initiative built on the idea that scientists and designers need to be brought together in order to help the world better understand science in the first place.  Phingbodhipakkiya has applied the same principle behind her initiative to her poster project.

 

Phingbodhipakkiya became interested in neuroscience herself when she could no longer dance thanks to a severe injury she suffered from in college.  “I desperately wanted to understand why I couldn’t move as gracefully as I used to, and began studying the intricacies of how the nervous and musculoskeletal systems work together,” Phingbodhipakkiya told me.  When she began to study Alzheimer’s, and realized that the urgency of the work was not being properly displayed, that’s when she turned to design.

 

“I realized, as scientists, we needed to be better equipped to convey the vital urgency of our work.  I gained a new sense of purpose and made it my mission to learn how to use design to shine a light on science.”  And that lead to The Leading Strand.

 

When Phingbodhipakkiya approached me, I asked her what her inspiration behind the  Beyond Curie project was, specifically.  “Like many people, I was feeling pretty upset after the [US] election,” she told me. “and thinking a lot about how I could get more involved.”  That was when one of her friends, who worked on the Hillary Clinton campaign, told her to pick a cause that she cared deeply about and support it in a way that only she could.

 

“That’s what led me to do Beyond Curie,”  She said.  “I wanted to celebrate the rich history of women kicking [butt] in STEM fields, to show that our world was built by brilliant people, both male and female and of all backgrounds, and to inspire the next generation of young women to go into STEM fields.” -- Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya / The Verge / “When Design Meets Neuroscience”

 

How’s the Project Doing?

 

As it would seem, this project has been doing wonderfully.  Phingbodhipakkiya turned to Kickstarter to fund this project, and says she’s had a great turn out.  In fact, as of the writing of this article, people have given over $18K to the project, when the Kickstarter’s goal was only placed at $1,000.

 

“…It’s been great to have people sharing their ideas and stories,”  Phingbodhipakkiya said. “Many educators have reached out sharing how they’ll use the posters to inspire young women in their schools and events.”

 

And for those who are preparing to support the March for Science, she’s created posters just for that cause as well.

 

Beyond Curie has been featured on FastCompany Magazine, and in Global Citizen.

 

Where Can You Find Out More?

 

You can find the many more of the designs at her Kickstarter, which of the publishing of this article will have about 14 more days to go. Although her project has already been funded far over what was needed for the project to begin with.

 

“I think encouraging young people, especially young women, to go into STEM fields science is so important. And one way to do it is through stories.”  Phingbodhipakkiya has a wonderful TED Talk on this subject, located here and well worth a watch.

 

How about it teachers? Will you decorate your classroom with these? I want one for home.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

 

If You're not Watching Emily Graslie, You're Missing Out

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Emily Graslie, of YouTube’s The Brain Scoop, only has a little over 300,000 subscribers, and in this day-and-age of the internet, that isn’t a lot. However, she’s not lacking the viewers because her content isn’t great — it is great. Her educational content, backed up by the Chicago Field Museum, is something worthwhile. Educators on YouTube have made more strides to make the internet more than just jokes and cat videos, and Emily Graslie is one of the best out there.

 

Her channel started from very humble beginnings. Emily Graslie was discovered by Hank Green, a man who is known for his innovation on YouTube with the help of his brother. Hank Green visited a little museum in Montana called the “Phillip L. Wright Zoological Museum”, where Graslie volunteered. Green, who runs a vlog channel with his brother, recorded the experience and the tour Graslie gave him on camera for his viewers to see. Green was taken by Graslie’s comfort in front of the camera, and the loyal vlogbrothers subscribers loved her, too. Green began to back up Graslie in making a YouTube channel of her own, where she would be educating people on animals, taxidermy, and how museums were run. Soon enough, she was contacted by the Chicago Field Museum, and she was offered a job there.

 

Now, The Brain Scoop is run out of the Field Museum.

 

Nearly four years later, though, and not enough people have payed attention to the strides her channel is making. From encouraging young women to join in STEM fields, to keeping people up to date on scientific news (in her new segment called “the Natural News”), to using her time and energy to educate as many people as possible. I don’t think she’s getting the attention she deserves.

 

Before reaching the Field Museum, Graslie was worried she’d have to shut down the show. They weren’t receiving the funding they needed. A lack of viewers left them unable to pay the small team behind the camera, and even Graslie herself.

 

Some of the problem may lay with the fact that she wasn’t doing weekly videos. Even with a small team behind her, doing the editing and whatnot, it takes a lot of time and effort to come out with these videos. Between doing all the research, the shooting, the editing, and the processing, a small team can only handle so much. However, Graslie has stated recently that they will be back to making weekly videos soon, and hopefully this will help up their viewer count.

 

Graslie’s videos cover a wide range of topics that can appeal to many different audiences. She’s gone so far as to skin a wolf on camera for people to watch how taxidermy works. She also goes into more simple subjects, such as the difference between horns and antlers, that can appeal to younger viewers. She has humor thrown throughout to keep viewers entertained, and her quirky personality is something that’s enjoyed by all. She’s extremely intelligent, and she showcases this without being in your face about her knowledge. Her only goal is to educate people as much as she possibly can.

 

It should be noted that it’s not as though Graslie has gotten no attention for her channel. Early on in the channel’s life, she was featured on the Scientific American website for her work.

  “I mean …that’s pretty awesome,”  — Emily Graslie about being featured on Scientific American

 

She has even had the opportunity to give a TEDtalk (which you can view here), all about the value of curiosity — a topic she holds dear.

 

Considering the small size of her channel, it has done well, regardless. However, it still deserves more attention. The Brain Scoop proves to be everything education should be. Free, allowed to the public, easily accessible, fun, worthwhile, and engaging. If you enjoy learning and science, you’re really missing out if you’re not watching The Brain Scoop.

Originally Posted on LinkedIn by Mariah Loeber

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

 

A Bill was Introduced to Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency

 
Originally Posted February 5th, 2017

On February 3rd, 2017, a bill was introduced to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. There's little to no information on the actual bill as of yet. As of February 5th, 2016, we do not have a summary of the bill, and the bill has not yet been sent to the House or Senate. In the words of the government: "Delays can occur when there are a large number of bills to prepare or when a very large bill has to be printed."

 

All three original co-sponsers of this bill to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are of the Republican Party.  They are Thomas Massie (KY), Steven M. Palazzo (MS), and Barry Loudermark (GA).

 

Of course, there are many steps that need to take place before this bill becomes law. It needs to pass the House, then pass Senate, then it goes to the President.  If the President approves it, it becomes law.  If he vetoes it, it can still become law with a couple of extra steps.

 

WAIT ... WHAT DOES THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY DO?

 

The EPA, which was founded in 1970, is a federal agency that was intended to protect human life and the environment by means of government enforcing laws and regulations that would be passed by Congress. Without it, humans could be put in a lot more danger than we already are in via environmental causes.

 

For example, the EPA regulates air quality. With the EPA handling this, researching this, and coming up with various solutions to air quality problems, it reduces the risk of pollution-related diseases.  Without people working to keep our air quality to EPA standards, humans and the environment are at constant risk, and our risk will worsen even more.  The EPA, of course, regulates much more, including drinking water, oil pollution, regulating exposed asbestos, etc.  You can see more information here.

 

Getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency does one thing for the government -- brings them in money short term. However, it would cause damage that couldn't be reversed (and we already have enough of that to deal with), and have incredibly negative impacts to our health in general. Think of China and their lack of air quality in many parts of the country.

 

The government, at this point, is willingly ignoring science, health, and technology measures for means of profit. This comes as no surprise to me. If this doesn't prove that the government doesn't care about taking care of its people, I don't know what does. Clearly what is important to them as a whole is making money, and treating the government as a business.

 

FemSTEM will keep you updated on the bill, and how its faired through the law-making process.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.