Vitenskap og feminisme

Jeg oppdaget plutselig det kuleste prosjektet på Kickstarter om vitenskap og feminisme! Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya har studert nevrovitenskap og er nå illustratør og har startet et prosjekt på Kickstarter for å spre kunnskap om vitenskap og feminisme i verden.

Prosjektet hennes går ut på å lage plakater av kvinner som har gjort store ting for vitenskapen, men som har blitt forbigått i stillhet. Man kan bli matt av at det ikke bare har vært umulig for kvinner å få innpass i vitenskapen, men også at når de har tatt plass og utrettet store ting, så har de blitt forbigått, ikke inkludert når priser har blitt utdelt og umiddelbart glemt i etterkant.

Men jeg liker ideen om å vise fram kvinner gjennom plakater. De er ment for å henges opp i klasserom og biblioteker for å vise fram alle de kule damene som har gått i front både i vitenskap og feminisme. Jeg har hørt om flere av de inkluderte, antageligvis fordi mange av dem er biologer, men det er trist hvor mange jeg ikke har hørt om. Jeg antar at alle i Norge har hørt om May-Britt Moser, som vant Nobelprisen i medisin i 2014, men jeg er ikke sikker på om alle er klar over at det var labteknikeren (hun fikk jo ikke lov til å bli forsker og professor) Rosalind Franklin som tok bildene av DNA som gjorde at man skjønte at det var en dobbelhelix. Hun er det mest kjente eksempelet på “dame som ikke ble inkludert da de delte ut Nobelpris for noe hun hadde gjort”.

Men de har også med fysikere, matematikere og programmerere som jeg aldri har hørt om. Jeg er glad for at Internett gjør at man kan bli smartere og mer informert selv om man for lengst er ferdig på skolen.

Det er 12 dager igjen til å backe prosjektet, så om du har lyst til å støtte det/ få din egen plakat/pute med kul vitenskapsperson som er dame på, så er det fremdeles tid!

English: I have just backed this cool poster project and I think you should do it too.

Because science

I found this site through twitter: that lists 10 scientific terms that people misunderstand. My favorites were

6. Gene

Johnson has an even bigger concern about how the word gene gets used, however:

It took 25 scientists two contentious days to come up with: “a locatable region of genomic sequence, corresponding to a unit of inheritance, which is associated with regulatory regions, transcribed regions and/or other functional sequence regions.” Meaning that a gene is a discrete bit of DNA that we can point to and say, “that makes something, or regulates the making of something”. The definition has a lot of wiggle room by design; it wasn’t long ago that we thought that most of our DNA didn’t do anything at all. We called it “junk DNA”, but we’re discovering that much of that junk has purposes that weren’t immediately obvious.

Typically “gene” is misused most when followed by “for”. There’s two problems with this. We all have genes for hemoglobin, but we don’t all have sickle cell anemia. Different people have different versions of the hemoglobin gene, called alleles. There are hemoglobin alleles which are associated with sickle cell diseases, and others that aren’t. So, a gene refers to a family of alleles, and only a few members of that family, if any, are associated with diseases or disorders. The gene isn’t bad – trust me, you won’t live long without hemoglobin – though the particular version of hemoglobin that you have could be problematic.

I worry most about the popularization of the idea that when a genetic variation is correlated with something, it is the “gene for” that something. The language suggests that “this gene causes heart disease”, when the reality is usually, “people that have this allele seem to have a slightly higher incidence of heart disease, but we don’t know why, and maybe there are compensating advantages to this allele that we didn’t notice because we weren’t looking for them”.

7. Statistically Significant

Mathematician Jordan Ellenberg wants to set the record straight about this idea:

“Statistically significant” is one of those phrases scientists would love to have a chance to take back and rename. “Significant” suggests importance; but the test of statistical significance, developed by the British statistician R.A. Fisher, doesn’t measure the importance or size of an effect; only whether we are able to distinguish it, using our keenest statistical tools, from zero. “Statistically noticeable” or “Statistically discernable” would be much better.

Soft sweeps and adaptation

We are now at day three here in Puerto Rico. There are more and more interesting talks and a lot of people that I want to read up on. The twitter community at #SMBE14 is blooming and it is really nice to see what other people think of what is happening. This is why I have twitter.

And one of the people here does these wonderful sketches and luckily for me he is in almost all my sessions. Here is one from one of the more interesting talks today.


All honor to Alex Cagan (@ATJCagan)

Tre dager i San Juan

Nå har jeg vært her i tre dager og konferansen har endelig begynt. Jeg hadde en strabasiøs reise med komplikasjoner, men leiligheten er bra. Jeg bor i et veldig fint område og nære konferansehotellet. Det er god mat, deilig kaffe, hav over alt, strender, sol, Amerikanere, luftfuktighet, pelikaner og øgler.









White male privilege

I read about a group of researches that did a field experiment on response from professors in academia to emails from students. And I am very sad about the results.

From NPR’s transcript of a Morning Edition story: Group of researchers ran this interesting field experiment. They emailed more than 6,500 professors at the top 250 schools pretending to be the students. And they wrote letters saying, I really admire your work. Would you have some time to meet? The letters to the faculty were all identical, but the names of the students were all different. […] Brad Anderson. Meredith Roberts. Lamar Washington. LaToya Brown. Juanita Martinez. Deepak Patel, Sonali Desai, Chang Wong, Mei Chen. […] All they were measuring was how often professors wrote back agreeing to meet with with the students. And what they found was there were very large disparities. Women and minorities [were] systematically less likely to get responses from the professors and also less likely to get positive responses from the professors. Now remember, these are top faculty at the top schools in the United States and the letters were all impeccably written.

“There’s absolutely no benefit seen when women reach out to female faculty, nor do we see benefits from black students reaching out to black faculty or Hispanic students reaching out to Hispanic faculty,” and, “In business academia, we see a 25 percentage point gap in the response rate to Caucasian males vs. women and minorities.”

Milkman found there were very large disparities between academic departments and between schools. Faculty at private schools were significantly more likely to discriminate against women and minorities than faculty at public schools. And faculty in fields that were very lucrative were also more likely to discriminate. So there was very little discrimination in the humanities. There was more discrimination among faculty at the natural sciences. And there was a lot of discrimination among the faculty at business schools.

All this makes me sad and a bit worried about my academic future. It just shows me that I need to be extra pushy and remember to follow up on all the people I contact.

Current fluctuations in selection response of the Atlantic salmon genome discovered during ongoing domestication

This is what will get me to Puerto Rico in june, I hope.

“Domestication is associated with strong selection and rapid phenotypic change. It therefore offers opportunities to study consistent directional selection on complex characters in organisms with long generation times. Contemporary domestications, additionally, also allow the early stages of the domestication process to be analysed.

Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) was domesticated less than 15 generations ago. This recent domestication has targeted particularly body size as the major selective trait, but the commercial rearing environments have also been shown to be responsible for indirect selection on behavioural traits, e.g. reduced predator response and increased aggression. As the traits under selection are complex polygenic characters and the selection is likely on existing genetic variation, we expect to find many loci responding to selection.

We exploited early samples and the well documented pedigree from this domestication event to track the impact of selection in a commercial salmon breeding line. We find striking variation among generations in the distribution, identity and number of loci displaying generation to generation transmission ratio distortion. Our results are consistent with an early response to domestication where the entire genetic background is subtly transformed. Selective sweeps, such as have been observed in older domestications, would then occur later within this transformed genetic background.”

Also, this is the basis of my first paper, 1/3 of my PhD.

En uke igjen!

Nå er det bare én uke til vi reiser til Thailand! De siste ukene har gått helt sinnsykt fort. Aner ikke hvor de ble av. Virkelig ikke. Men nå reiser vi snart! Vi har fikset det meste av overnatting og vet hvor vi skal være nesten alle dagene (fordi vi liker å ha planlagt før vi reiser på ferie). Reisen blir som følger:


Første døgn på hotell i Bankok for å slappe av og bli vant til landet.


Så til Chiang Mai for å oppleve Nord-Thailand, elefanter, templer, deilig mat og gammel kultur.


Så reiser vi sørover til øyparadisene.


Ko Phi Phi, verdens peneste øy, utenfor Krabi.


Phang Nga marin nasjonalpark, utenfor Phuket.


Phuket town, som var viktig for handel i Thailand lenge før turismen eksploderte.


Khao Sok nasjonalpark, det våteste stedet i Thailand og det området med eldst og størst sammenhengende regnskog i landet.

Til slutt reiser vi tilbake til Bankok for å oppleve byen og være med på Songkran: SONGKRAN-17a Songkran in Bangkok

Hvorfor jeg ikke er vegetarianer

Jeg synes det nesten er dårlig gjort hvordan alle forventer at vegetarianere må gulpe opp et svar hver gang de blir spurt om hvorfor de er nettopp vegetarianere. Det er som de som ikke drikker alkohol. Så derfor tenkte jeg å si hvorfor jeg ikke er vegetarianer. Jeg faller jo i den sosiale gruppa som veldig gjerne kunne vært det og jeg har tenkt mye på det og pratet mye om det i sikkert ti år, men er det ikke.

For meg handler det hovedsakelig om å være konsekvent. Jeg er i utgangspunktet enig i at måten vi behandler husdyrene våre på ikke er så bra som det burde, men jeg synes det er vanskelig å peke ut noen dyr som de største ofrene og vil ikke legge skyld på noen uten ordentlige beviser. Dessuten kunne jeg ikke blitt vegetarianer uten å være helt konsekvent, som også må innebære klær og sko og alt annet jeg omgir meg med. Det må involvere ull og skinn, ikke bare pels og kjøtt.

Og jeg tror at å spise mindre kjøtt totalt sett og å redusere forbruket sitt av nyproduserte klær og sko er viktig, men jeg vil ha varme, gode klær. Og så synes jeg at man uansett kan spise ville dyr, så lenge man er ganske sikker på at man ikke ødelegger noen populasjoner. Som betyr at elg fra Norge alltid er i orden, heldigvis.

Dessuten synes jeg det er vanskelig å være vegetarianer når jeg også er laktoseintolerant. Hva er norsk vegetarmat uten melkeprodukter? Hadde jeg bodd i India eller Thailand hadde det nok vært mye enklere, men her hjemme er det vanskelig. Dessuten synes jeg kjøtt er både godt og mettende, så det hadde vært vanskelig å legge helt fra seg. Hvorfor er ikke du vegetarianer?

Gyeongju – the old capital

We did a pit stop between Seoul and Busan on our way South, to see some of the countryside and to look at some historic places. So we went to Gyeongju, which was the capital of Silla from 57 BC – 935 AD, to see where the treasures we had seen at the Korean History museum in Seoul were found.



All the treasures were found in old burial mounds of kings, like these.

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We walked through the park of historic mounds.



Had lunch at a Japanese restaurant. They do distinct Korean Japanese food.

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Neo-Korean, maybe?


Umbrella as an fashion statement.

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Traditional teapots of clay.

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Love the details of the buildings.


Especially the colours.




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And we found a beautiful tree (I’m actually looking at the ants on the tree trunk in this picture).



Yes, that is my swimsuit 😉

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We found this amazing place.



Where they grew squash.


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Also these prickly things.

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And just behind them we found flowers!

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They had this car that would drive the tourists around.

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Notice the dark skies behind her? We bought an umbrella from her just an hour later, I think, because we were drowning in the downpour.

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This is where they found the big crown and everything.

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And then, in the middle of a field, we found this picture board of a princess on a horse. Which of us is the prettiest one?




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Exotic animals – water edition

I haven’t been to many aquariums before and wasn’t sure what to expect of the actual animals in the aquarium in Korea. But I was very happy that they (too) were mostly interested in local animals, so we got to see a lot of fish and other animals that I have only heard about in university.

Well, I have seen penguins before, but not this species.

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And I really liked these while whales. They were the stars of the aquarium.

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As I am a proper biology nerd, I also love these animals. It’s funny how everyone thinks they’re plants, just because they don’t move.

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Many animals had bright colours and big forheads 😉

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It worked surprisingly well to use the macro lens through the glass.

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These are piranja, pretty!


Not this one though. I think.

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These pictures are from the big water tank. Lots of sharks and skates.

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Can you call that wash board in English as well? Fun to see the underside of it at least.

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Oooh, this is the mantis shrimp! Maybe the only thing that Erik and Ruben were as exited as me to see in real life, as it is super fast and super strong and very pretty.

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This strange creature is actually (probably) one of the really old animals on the planet. There are fossils of the same species. A quote from Wikipedia:

Horseshoe crabs resemble crustaceans, but belong to a separate subphylum, Chelicerata, and are closely related to arachnids, e.g.,spiders and scorpions. The earliest horseshoe crab fossils are found in strata from the late Ordovician period, roughly450 million years ago.

So this was probably the most interesting thing I saw…



Had to take a picture of this fish with huge eyes in what looks like a face. Will it kiss you?






I’m not sure if I will go to every aquarium I see, but I think I will try to go to some that are in entirely different habitats than the one I grew up in (or at the shore of).

Hvorfor du bør miste maten din på bakken

Jeg fant denne fine artikkelen om hygiene og allergi på NRK. Det den handler om er rett og slett at det ser ut til at vi i for liten grad blir utsatt for farlige og mindre farlige mikroorganismer i løpet av livet og derfor lettere får allergi, tarmsykdommer og hjerteproblemer.

Så selv om vi da har blitt kvitt kopper, pest og kolera, så har vi nå autoimmune sykdommer som lupus (SLE), multippel sklerose (MS) og leddgikt, og andre kroniske betennelsessykdommer som allergi, inflammatorisk tarmsykdom (IBD) cøliaki, hjerte- og karsykdommer, diabetes 1, ja kanskje til og med fedme.

I artikkelen forteller Tor Lea fra NMBU at det er en sammenheng mellom moderne sykdommer og variasjon i mikroorganismene som vi møter i løpet av livet. Og nettopp fordi vi i mindre grad er i naturen, sammen med dyr og planter, så møter vi for få mikroorganismer.

Og da tenker jeg, at igjen så er speideren og friluftsliv løsningen og overbeskyttende foreldre en del av problemet. I speideren får du lov til å spise mat som har falt på bakken, rote i jorda, ikke vaske deg hele tiden og møte varierte mikroorganismer. Så vær glad for alt “speiderkrydder” du har spist og alle femsekundersregler du har brutt!

Life expectancy vs per capita spending on healthcare


How would you interpret this graph?

Firstly, don’t think about the line. A linear regression with this kind of spread of the data is just silly and is probably not the best way of presenting a tendency.

What is really important here are the two axes, the spending per capita (person) and the life expectancy. The further up you go, the longer people live, while the further to the right you go, the more the country spend on health care.

So if you draw a line from top to bottom in the middle of the x-axis, you will have all the big spenders on the right and the cheap ones on the left. Which means that we in Norway are joined by USA, Denmark, Switzerland, Canada, Germany and France. While countries like Mexico, Hungary, Korea and Greece all spend very little on health care.

The second line you should draw is from left to right, in the middle of the y-axis. The countries with high life expectancy will be on top and low expectancy will be on the bottom. But notice that most of the countries all lie between 80 and 86, so no matter how much a country spend, the difference is usually no more that 6 years. (Fun fact: the life expectancy in Oslo differs by 4 years between east and west.)

So what you have to look at then, is how well money spent on health care is correlated with life expectancy. Well, “not really”, is the answer to that. And also “this is complicated”. The only interesting outlier here is USA, really. Because Mexico spends very little and has very low life expectancy, so it’s really just the opposite of Norway. While USA spends significantly more that anyone else, but still has a low life expectancy.

What we all should think about is why we in the West (right side) send so much more money than the East (left side), but still have the same life expectancy?

Bayesian statistics


This is Dr. Matthew Stevens, one of my two lecturers on my course MCMC in Statistical Genetics here at University of Washington in Seattle. Today, tomorrow and half of wednesday I will learn more about Bayesian statistics and how I can use that statistic in my work in genetics at home.

In Bayesian statistics you use prior information of your dataset in addition to the information you get from the data themselves. And MCMC stands for markov chain monte carlo which is a method (or algorithm) to search through an unknown space to find a probable solution of a question given your data.

It sounds a bit complicated maybe, but I recommend that you read up a bit on it on Wikipedia. I think that the articles on statistics on Wikipedia are very good and you can learn a lot from it.

And as I am now on Pacific time, I am eigth hours after Norway, so my blog posts will be out later than usual. And I will try not to use my phone, only the internet, so if you want to communicate, use the internet!