I’ve never been female. But I have been black my whole life. I can perhaps offer some insight from that perspective. There are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the black community, as well as the community of women in a white male dominate society…
When I look at — throughout my life — I’ve known that I wanted to do astrophysics since I was 9 years old…I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expressions of these ambitions. All I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist, an astrophysicist was hands down the path of most resistance through the forces of society.
Anytime I expressed this interest, teachers would say, ‘Oh, don’t you wanna be an athlete?’ I want to become someone that was outside of the paradigm of expectations of the people in power. Fortunately, my depth of interest of the universe was so deep and so fuel enriched that everyone of these curve balls that I was thrown, and fences built in front of me, and hills that I had to climb, I just reach for more fuel, and I just kept going.
Now, here I am, one of the most visible scientists in the land, and I wanna look behind me and say, ‘Where are the others who might have been this,’ and they’re not there! …I happened to survive and others did not simply because of forces of society that prevented it at every turn. At every turn.
…My life experience tells me that when you don’t find blacks, when you don’t find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are real, and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today.
So before we start talking about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity, then we can have that conversation."
"What’s up with chicks and science?"
Are there genetic differences between men and women, explain why more men are in science.
People blog, they don’t lbog, and they schmooze, not mshooze. But why is this? Why are human languages so constrained? Can such restrictions unveil the basis of the uniquely human capacity for language?
A groundbreaking study published in PLOS ONE by Prof. Iris Berent of Northeastern University and researchers at Harvard Medical School shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language universals. Syllables that are frequent across languages are recognized more readily than infrequent syllables. Simply put, this study shows that language universals are hardwired in the human brain.
Language universals have been the subject of intense research, but their basis remains elusive. Indeed, the similarities between human languages could result from a host of reasons that are tangential to the language system itself. Syllables like lbog, for instance, might be rare due to sheer historical forces, or because they are just harder to hear and articulate. A more interesting possibility, however, is that these facts could stem from the biology of the language system. Could the unpopularity of lbogs result from universal linguistic principles that are active in every human brain?
To address this question, Dr. Berent and her colleagues examined the response of human brains to distinct syllable types—either ones that are frequent across languages (e.g., blif, bnif), or infrequent (e.g., bdif, lbif). In the experiment, participants heard one auditory stimulus at a time (e.g., lbif), and were then asked to determine whether the stimulus includes one syllable or two while their brain was simultaneously imaged.
Results showed the syllables that were infrequent and ill-formed, as determined by their linguistic structure, were harder for people to process. Remarkably, a similar pattern emerged in participants’ brain responses: worse-formed syllables (e.g., lbif) exerted different demands on the brain than syllables that are well-formed (e.g., blif).
UNIVERSALLY HARDWIRED BRAINS
The localization of these patterns in the brain further sheds light on their origin. If the difficulty in processing syllables like lbif were solely due to unfamiliarity, failure in their acoustic processing, and articulation, then such syllables are expected to only exact cost on regions of the brain associated with memory for familiar words, audition, and motor control. In contrast, if the dislike of lbif reflects its linguistic structure, then the syllable hierarchy is expected to engage traditional language areas in the brain.
While syllables like lbif did, in fact, tax auditory brain areas, they exerted no measurable costs with respect to either articulation or lexical processing. Instead, it was Broca’s area—a primary language center of the brain—that was sensitive to the syllable hierarchy.
These results show for the first time that the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language universals: the brain responds differently to syllables that are frequent across languages (e.g., bnif) relative to syllables that are infrequent (e.g., lbif). This is a remarkable finding given that participants (English speakers) have never encountered most of those syllables before, and it shows that language universals are encoded in human brains.
The fact that the brain activity engaged Broca’s area—a traditional language area—suggests that this brain response might be due to a linguistic principle. This result opens up the possibility that human brains share common linguistic restrictions on the sound pattern of language.
This proposal is further supported by a second study that recently appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, also co-authored by Dr. Berent. This study shows that, like their adult counterparts, newborns are sensitive to the universal syllable hierarchy.
The findings from newborns are particularly striking because they have little to no experience with any such syllable. Together, these results demonstrate that the sound patterns of human language reflect shared linguistic constraints that are hardwired in the human brain already at birth.
I took my girlfriend to an improv show the other night and during intermission we were passionately arguing over whether half a 5 Hour Energy shot would give you 2.5 hours of energy or 5 hours of half-assed energy so we turned around to ask the opinions of the three people behind us and one of them said “Are all your arguments like this because we heard you in the lobby earlier fighting over the right way to pronounce ‘egg’?”