Thursday, March 29, 2012


I was talking with a colleague the other day about science videos and that more scientists were making short films about what their research is about, how they go about doing research, and some of the interesting things they are discovering. This colleague, who is a statistician/modeler, suggested that this activity was not something he could participate in because his area was too abstract and did not lend itself well to visual media.

I was a bit surprised by this statement and pointed out that there were lots of interesting and informative science videos that deal with math, physics, and similar topics. I suggested he take a look at YouTube where one can find some quite amazing and creative examples. His reaction to this suggestion indicated that he thought YouTube was a repository comprised of mostly amateur, puerile videos.  Although there are a lot of those, there are many excellent and professionally-produced videos.

Also, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the US (Google being first).

Anyway, I often conduct searches on science topics on YouTube just to see what interesting and creative videos are out there. Here is one I came across recently, which was created by Cristóbal Vila, a 3D illustrator and animator (with no formal science background that I can see). It is about geometry and mathematical relationships, using examples from nature to illustrate concepts.  The video is embedded below, but you can read more about how the video was made here.  Last I checked, this video has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube. That's a lot of people potentially inspired to learn more about the mathematical proportions in nature.

Enjoy..(to see a high resolution version select the HD version and full screen mode to view)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When Introvert and Extrovert Marry

In this series of posts, I've been talking about introverts, people who are contemplative, reserved, and quiet, and how such people are often viewed as being maladjusted.  I am particularly aware of this phenomenon since I am an introvert.  Being married to an extrovert (35 years), I've also got a pretty good handle on the other half and what makes them tick.

Here is what I've observed over the years.  I need lots of time to myself, quiet time, without other people, without incessant talking, without blasting music, without traffic or other city noises....QUIET.  When there is a lot going on around me, I cannot concentrate, I cannot relax, I cannot recharge.  After being around people, especially loud people, I need quiet time to recover.  My husband is the opposite.  He is energized by other people, the more the better.  He needs the stimulation of being around other people and lots of activity and noise to be happy. He can appreciate a quiet evening alone, but after only a day or so, becomes anxious and needs to socialize.

Going to a party is quite a different experience for the two of us.  I usually dread it, much like someone would anticipate a visit to a dentist to have a root canal (we feel we should do it, but it's not going to be fun); he looks forward to it like a kid anticipating Disney World.  I'm anxious; he's giddy.  Once there, I'm usually fine and can carry on a decent, even enjoyable conversation with people.  On the way home, he usually points this out to me saying, "See, you had a good time." Yes, but I pay for it.  I'm drained emotionally and mentally. It may take several hours or even days to recover.  It really doesn't matter whether the stress is positive or negative; both are draining and take a toll.  The fact is, I often prefer to stay home, curled up with a good book in front of the fireplace.  I would have a much better time and would not be emotionally drained at the end of the evening.

As a couple, we've learned to compromise over our different needs for socializing.  I make an effort to do what he likes, and he does the same for me.  We spend quiet evenings together over a nice meal or watch a movie (at home–I finally quit going to the theater after acknowledging how much I hated the crowds).  We also go out to dinner with friends or have friends over; we go to plays or concerts (in small, intimate theaters).  He also does a lot of socializing without me...spending time at coffee houses, having lunch with his buddies, talking on the phone.  These extra activities help him feel socially connected.  I happily stay home and read or carry on some other solitary hobby.  When we travel, we take turns going to remote, natural areas to camp, hike, canoe, or swim and to cities with museums, restaurants, and bustling crowds. Sometimes, we manage both extremes during the same trip.

However, there is always an element of judgement regarding whose nature is "best".  My way is somehow viewed as being inferior, deficient, flawed, or maladjusted.  According to some, the extrovert is the ideal; it's what we should all be striving for–at least in the US this seems to be the case.  Apparently, many people who are naturally introverted also believe this and fake a more outgoing nature.  Even though they feel uncomfortable in social situations, they force themselves into social settings and can even fool other people into thinking they are extroverts.  Consider the poll I ran on this blog a while back (see very bottom of the page), asking scientists and non-scientists to rate themselves on a social scale: Social Butterfly, Congenial Comrade, Split Personality, Wallflower, Social Outcast.  I included, at the last minute, another category: Impostor (socially awkward, but able to fake social aptitude).  This category was selected most often, by both scientists and non-scientists.

Trying to "pass" as an extrovert may be a common behavior for some introverts, according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.  We feel pressured to spend more time socializing than is comfortable.  The pressure to be more social can be greatest from those closest to us--spouses, parents, or friends.

What this bias does to introverts and to society as a whole is explored in Cain's book. If you are interested in hearing her TED talk about these ideas, see the video link below.