Somebody needs a brain makeover.

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There is a post at the Chron blog entitled “Blonded by Science” that states:

A dismal 7 percent of adult Americans are science literate, but James Trefil has a secret weapon that could send that number cartwheeling into the double digits: cheerleaders. Specifically, the members of the Philadelphia 76ers squad.

Working with Darlene Cavalier, a former Sixers cheerleader-turned-science-journalist, Mr. Trefil, a physics professor at George Mason University, hopes to improve science education with a Web page called Brain Makeover.

Here’s how it works: First watch a series of video clips of Sixers cheerleaders stating key scientific concepts and shaking their pompoms. Then test what you’ve learned by taking a short quiz.

Somewhere in the middle of it all Mr. Trefil provides brief science lessons. (Hint: Look below each of the clips.) We got distracted by the swirling quarks and leptons, and failed the quiz. Dismally.

From the Brain Makeover site:

To start your Brain Makeover, click on any one of the ideas listed below to watch a 76er cheerleader share the concept and to read Professor Trefil’s explanation.

1. The universe is regular and predictable.

2. Energy is conserved and always moves from more useful to less useful forms.

3. Electricity and magnetism are two sides of the same coin.

4. All matter is made of atoms.

5. Everything comes in discrete units and you can’t measure anything without changing it.

6. Atoms are bound by electron glue.

7. The way a material behaves depends on how its atoms are arranged.

8. Nuclear energy comes from the conversion of mass.

9. All matter is made from quarks and leptons.

10. Stars live and stars die.

11. The universe was born at a specific time and had been expanding ever since.

12. Every observer sees the same laws of nature.

13. The surface of the Earth is constantly changing.

14. The Earth operates in many cycles.

15. All living things are made from cells, the chemical factories of life.

16. All life is based on the same genetic code.

17. All forms of life evolved by natural selection.

18. All life is connected.

Anybody feel smarter? And where are the cheering, scantily clad men? Via Zuska, who notes:

These god-awful videos are akin to the long-standing practice of sexist science dudes including cheesecake photos in the middle of their science slide presentations for “comic relief” or to “entertain the audience”. In fact, they are just an extension of that practice. “Look! Sexy babes ‘n’ science! Did I get your attention?”

–Ann Bartow

This entry was posted in Academia, Feminism and Science, Sociolinguistics. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Somebody needs a brain makeover.

  1. erica says:

    As a female engineer, who is in a program to help teach basic concepts to middle-school students next year, I find this to be offensive, useless, missing-the-point, and the science concepts are either inadequately explained or aiming too high (sometimes, oddly, both). The Science Cheerleader certainly seems interested in improving science literacy, but this… just won’t work.

  2. efink says:

    “The universe is regular and predictable.” Alas, so is sexist crap.

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