Archive for September, 2010

Antonina Pirozhkova, Who Preserved Legacy of Writer Isaac Babel, dies at 101

September 27th, 2010

Antonina Pirozhkova,whose memoir of her life with husband, Russian writer Isaac Babel, helped preserve his memory, died at age 101. The cause of death was not reported.

Pirozhkova was an engineer who helped design the Moscow subway system. She met Babel, who would become her common-law husband, when she was 23 and he was 38. Babel was an established author who had written “Red Calvary (1926) and “Odessa Tales (1931) and was credited as one of the finest masters of the Russian short story during the 20th century.

Pirozhkova and Babel lived together until May 1939 when he was arrested by the Soviet secret police. Babel was picked up by police in a round up of intellectuals under the regime of Joseph Stalin. He was accused of being a member of a subversive anti-Soviet group and of being a spy for Austria and France.

Ms. Pirozhkova never saw her husband again and in 1954, received a death certificate indicating Babel had died on March 17, 1941. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that she would eventually learn his true fate. Babel was executed after a 20-minute show trial on January 27, 1940.

Pirozhkova’s memoir, which she began to write in 1972, reminisced about her time with Babel–their interactions, his writing habits and his interactions with other writers. The memoir was well received and heralded as a literary tour de force when it was published in 1996.

In an interview with the Washington Post in 1997, she said her memories of life with Babel never faded with time. “They are as vivid as when they happened,” she said.


Shift in Academic Gender Divide: More US Women earn Ph.D.s Than Men

September 15th, 2010

According to the Washington Post, women for the first time in US History earned more doctoral degrees than their male counterparts last year. Of the doctoral degrees awarded in the 2008-09 academic year 28,962 were received by women and 28,469 by men.

In education doctorates given last year, women received 5,130 and mean 2,488. In health sciences women earned 4,851 and men 2,056. In behavioral science women earned 4,271 and men 2,894.

However, in math & computer sciences, engineering and physical science doctorates, women still lag behind men. In math & computer sciences women earned only 736 doctorates compared to 2,008 by men. Women earned 1,559 engineering degrees while men earned 5,814. And women earned 1,612 physical science doctorates compared to 3,210 by men.

Overall, women still earned more doctorates and the number of women in every area of Academia is continuing to rise.

“Delusions of Gender” explores the “neurosexism” inherent in the study of male & female brains

September 13th, 2010

Cognitive Psychologist Cordelia Fine irreverently examines the ways that fMRI brain scans are used in analysis of male and female brains, and exposes the existence of sexism in the practice, in her new book “Delusions of Gender.”

According to the Washington Post, brain scans do not take color videos of the human brain in action. What they measure is the magnetic quality of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen and is consumed in particular regions of the brain. If the measurements is different from what a scientist expects, they assign a color to that region and the image is interpreted as being connected to behavior.

This is Fine’s central critique of brain scanning. She calls it “blobology,” the science of creating images in brain scans and then correlating them to human behavior, especially when those images are ambiguous to begin with. It leaves room to use neurological difference between males and females to justify sexism. And according to Fine, our brains are gender neutral. Fine vigorously attacks the notion that sex hormones shape the brain which subsequently determines behavior and intellectual ability.

“Neurosexism” is not a recent develop. Famous 20th century neurologist Charles Dana posited that based on “research” that showed several differences between men and women’s brains and nervous systems, women were neurologically wired to lack the intellect for politics and governance. Dana’s findings were made public in a 1915 New York Times commentary of women’s suffrage.

What do you think? Are brain scans and the way we think of neurological differences between men and women informed by our socially imbibed beliefs about gender roles?