Part I: Science Alert, Serious Wonder and Cosmos Up

Part I: Science Alert, Serious Wonder and Cosmos Up

I should have been a research scientist. I love science. I’m extremely intelligent, determined, creative, and organized. I coulda been a contenda for a Nobel prize. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Why am I not a scientist? I had a series of misogynistic (one of my teachers hated the four girls in my advanced science class so much he would pith [paralyze] the frogs by holding them in the air directly in front of one of us so that each frog would urinate on our blouses), anti-Semitic (another one wore his “John Birch Society” pin to school every day, displayed prominently on his lapel; there were three girls in my class and he insulted each of us daily), incompetent (in an lab accident at his “real” job, this poor man had lost most of his sight and drive and spent each class time mostly ignoring all of us) and otherwise horrible science teachers in 8th, 9th, and 10th grades.

With better teachers in those critical years, my life could have turned out very differently. Those terrible teachers turned me so far off science I only took one more “hard” science course (because it was required, in undergraduate college), despite many more years of education, through getting a doctorate.

As an adult, I became enthralled with quantum physics, health/anatomy, nutrition, child development/learning and the multiverse/astrophysics, so I read. A lot. I also watch documentaries. I am not even close to understanding some of the physics stuff, but the rest I got quite adept at utilizing. To “keep up,” I subscribe to many science-oriented blogs and curation sites.

My favorites are: Science Alert, Serious Wonder and Cosmos Up. I will excerpt from some of the “best of the best” of what I’ve recently perused. Part I is all from Science Alert.

I hope you enjoy! Go subscribe!

Science Alert logo

Astrophysics and Quantum Physics/Mechanics
19 Jan 2015
“For the first time, scientists in Australia have detected a gigantic burst of radio waves from outside our galaxy in real time. Called blitzars [also known as ‘fast radio bursts’ (FRB’s)], these bursts generate as much energy as the Sun does in a day, but they do it in mere milliseconds….The source of these ‘blitzars’ has so far remained a mystery….[T]hey’ve calculated the blitzar to be up to 5.5 billion light-years away from Earth.”

22 Jan 2015
“Researchers have found that have found that quantum mechanics can cause more than two optical systems to become entangled, potentially across large distances….[Q]uantum entanglement states that two particles can be implicitly linked and can seemingly influence each other no matter how far apart they are….[Q]uantum entanglement exists and forms the basis of teleportation and quantum cryptography. [In 2014], researchers from the University of Geneva managed to teleport a photon across a distance 25 kilometres….[This new experiment] provides an important step towards validation of mesoscopic quantum mechanics. Mesoscopic refers to the discipline of physics that deals with matter in between micro and macroscopic.”

10 Feb 2015
“New model suggests the Big Bang never occurred. Instead, the Universe has simply been going forever….A new quantum equation suggests that the Universe has no beginning or end, and it could also account for dark matter and dark energy.”

05 Apr 2015
“The LHC [Large Hadron Collider]…the monstrous underground atom smasher that hurls particles at near light speed, has been restarted….Here’s how it could change physics forever! ”
“The hunt for dark matter is on.”
These new LHC experiments may also resolve as-yet-unanswered questions regarding supersymmetry, antimatter, gravity and dark energy as well!

08 Apr 2015
“NASA’s chief scientist predicts we’ll find signs of alien life by 2025: ‘I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we’re going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years,’ NASA chief scientist, Ellen Stofan…
“‘It’s definitely not an if, it’s a when,’ said Jeffery Newmark, NASA’s interim director of heliophysics….
“‘[O]bservations by NASA’s Kepler space telescope suggest that nearly every star in the sky hosts planets – and many of these worlds may be habitable,’ says Mike Wall at”

16 Apr 2015
“Big news: Dark matter may not be as dark as we originally thought. Astronomers have found the first evidence that dark matter interacts with forces other than gravity.”

Child Development/Learning
05 Jan 2015
“If you want to sure up your child’s communication and problem-solving skills, chatting…to your baby about nothing in particular while you’re getting ready or doing work around the house…can be even more important than reading to them, new research suggests….[R]eading is great for young kids, but… on its own, it’s not enough to shore up their cognitive development.”

Anatomy/Biology/Zoology and Gender
09 Jan 2015

“Is it a male, or female? This unusual butterfly, apparently, couldn’t decide on its sex, resulting in beautiful and starkly different sets of wings….[I]t was a Common Archduke (Lexias pardalis) butterfly, with a condition known as bilateral gynandromorphy…[which] also been reported in crustaceans, such as lobsters, as well as in birds….”

23 Mar 2015
“Scientists have found a drug that makes people more compassionate. It turns out altering people’s brain chemistry can stop them from being selfish jerks….The drug, called tolcapone, prolongs the effect of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, a region involved in the regulation of complex thought and our emotions. And early tests suggest that it encourages people who take it to be more fair-minded when it comes to money.” I posit the biological bases for better or worse humans, particularly regarding behavior and selfishness, in my sci-fi ebooks, The Spanners Series.

09 Apr 2015
“Brain ‘gender’ is more fluid than originally thought, research reveals….[C]ontinual Dnmt [DNA methyltransferase (Dnmt), an enzyme that usually silences certain genes] exposure is necessary throughout development to ensure that a brain turns female.”
“Scientists have managed to neurologically switch newborn rats from female to male….Not only did their behaviour change dramatically, but the rats’ brains also structurally transformed.”
In the 1990s, I conducted my doctoral research and wrote my dissertation on the mutability of both gender and sexual orientation identities with the factors of interpersonal safety and connection being pivotal in how frequently, fluidly and diversely each individual’s identities might fluctuate, inventing a term for this contextualized fluctuation: differential authenticity.
“‘”It was thought that once established, sexual differentiation could not be undone,’ Nugent told PBS. ‘Our work shows that sex differences in brain and behaviour are epigenetically regulated, meaning that sex differences are not hardwired in our DNA but programmed during development.'”
I would add: and identities could change throughout life, regulated by circumstances and experiences.

21 May 2015
“Octopuses are able to ‘see’ with their skin, new research finds….[T]he same kind of skin perception might be happening in other cephalopods, too. In other words, these creatures can feel changes in light as well as see them.”
Cephalopods are featuredin my sci-fi ebooks, The Spanners Series.

Health and Nutrition
05 Feb 2015 and [with two videos from ASAP Science]
“Want to know how to decrease your odds of developing a cold by 58.8 percent, and if you do get one, how to shave 1.5 days off the length of it? The latest episode of AsapSCIENCE has got all the – scientifically approved – answers.” The two accompanying videos provide tips and advice and then debunk 6 common myths about how to behave/what to do/not do/eat/not eat when getting sick or already sick with a cold.

18 Mar 2015
“The longer you’re breastfed, the higher your IQ and adult earnings, study suggests, but not too long, or the benefits become disadvantages….And the difference was pretty huge. If a child had been breastfed for an entire year, they scored on average four more IQ points, had almost another year of formal education, and earned an extra 341 reais a month – which is about about a third more than the average income level in Brazil – than those who had breastfed for less than a month. But beyond 12 months, and the benefits in later life dropped off significantly – in adulthood, these people were on average poorer, and less educated.”

08 April 2015
“Amazing chart shows the planet’s longest-living animals. See how your puny human lifespan compares.” Humans don’t even make the top 10! The longest-living (an ocean quahog [an edible clam, pronounced in Massachusetts, USA, “co-hog”] exists for over 400 years! Eight of the top 10 longest-lived animals are all sea-dwelling creatures; the other two are land tortoises. I guess living on land shortens our lifespan considerably. Humans should have stayed in the sea.


Look for Part II in late June, focusing on info gathered by Serious Wonder.


After that, look for Part III in late July, info from Cosmos Up.

Cosmos Up logo

Guest Post: “Why Gender Identity? Why Now?” by Connie Dunn

I am honored and excited to continue this week of highlighting two ground-breaking children’s books in the areas of gender and sexual orientation identities (two topics dear to my heart since my doctoral research centered on them) by giving you a chance to meet another author and get to know her work: Connie Dunn is guest posting on my site, today. Welcome, Connie!

Why Gender Identity? Why Now?

by Connie Dunn

connie_dunn photo

In a world where bullying has gone online and children and youth, who act or look different, are more likely to get bullied, is it any wonder that gender identity issues cause those individuals to be at a higher risk. It is concerning and the statistics prove it….

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24. Suicide attempts by LGB (Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual) youth and questioning youth are four to six times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers. Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt. LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.


Hate crimes continue to grow. In Oakland, CA, a teen, who identified as female, wore a skirt to school last November and another teen at the school set the skirt on fire. The teen had second and third degree burns. In Cleveland, Ohio, two trans-women (MTF or Male to Female) were killed in two different incidents, both were considered hate crimes. Hate crimes in New York, San Diego, Canada, and many other places identify gay and lesbians as the victims. The trend of increased hate crimes now show that anti-gay crimes and anti-racial crimes are about equal, according to Brian Mustanski, Ph.D. in an article published in Psychology Today (June 2013).

When I first introduced my new book When Panda Was a Boy: A Collection of Stories on Gender Identity for K-8, I was joyfully surprised that it was met with:
“This is so needed in the world!” “Where have you been?” “I wish I had this book when I was young.”

I actually was prepared for people’s negative responses over what can be a controversial topic. Instead, I have been pleasantly greeted with open arms, which definitely says a lot about how LGBTQ people of all ages are being met by the larger community. But make no mistake; this is still a “hot button” issue.

Panda- Cover


When I first decided to write these stories, it came from my heart strings being pulled. I just couldn’t imagine anyone throwing out a child over their gender identity, whether that be trans (transgender, transsexual, or gender neutral), bisexual, gay, or lesbian. Our gender choices come from our DNA. No one wakes up one day and says, “Hmmm, I think I’ll be a ‘trans’ today.” Instead, it’s something that brews within their core being. Children as young as 2 ½ may begin showing tendencies toward the opposite gender than what their genitalia mandates. It doesn’t mean that they will ultimately be a trans. If a child is supported for who they are in all capacities, they will grow up to be who they are supposed to be.

One hurdle our society must get over is that people who are LGBTQ don’t seek it out as a rebellion; it is part of who they are. It’s in their DNA, which is not changeable. There are no choices to override DNA; it’s simply who you are just like your eye or hair color is part of who you are.

More youth and young adults are supporting trans by identifying as trans, which can be transgender, transsexual, or gender neutral. While most supporting people may be heterosexual; they also want to buck the binary system. There are many people who just don’t want to be “genderized.”

When young children begin to explore who they are between three and five years of age, sometimes as young as two-and-a-half, they explore gender. What happens is that our parents redirect us toward a stereotypical gender based on acceptable societal standards. When a little boy starts to play with dolls, a parent or other adult may say, “Boys don’t play with dolls!” So, they learn: “it’s not safe to be who I am.” These children stuff down these feelings. They don’t really go away; they just get pushed down inside of us. When a little girl wants trucks and cars, a parent will usually say, “Girls don’t play with cars and trucks, they play with dolls.”

Then, when these children go through puberty, another “who am I” comes up for them. This identity extends into gender but also includes their spiritual, religious, political, fashion, virtuous, non-virtuous, and so many other things. Gender is a huge part of who we are and what role we play in family and society. Again, these teenagers explore, but some will again be redirected to stereotypical gender roles. Once again, these youth learn: “It’s not safe to be who I am.” Maybe when these people get into their 20s, 30s, or even into midlife, they will again explore to find “who they are.”

This is also why I wrote When Panda Was a Boy. Young children explore gender, but they don’t often see themselves in storybooks unless they fit into that stereotypical role. Parents do not have the communication skills to deal with these issues, because it just isn’t discussed in most parenting circles. There are few role models in society, so my stories help parents find the right responses to support their children through their gender identity searches.

The stories in When Panda Was a Boy “are gentle stories and I approach the stories in a natural and age-appropriate way.

  • In “Amara’s Birthday Request,” Amara asks her mother for a penis. When Mom explores this with Amara, she finds out that Kamal, a boy at school, has told her that girls cannot sail a ship. Her mother assures her that she can do whatever boys can do. That’s all Amara needed to know.
  • In the story, “When Panda Was a Boy,” Lisa doesn’t want to have a tea party with Grandma, even though Grandma is wearing her fun tea party hat. Instead, Lisa wants to jump in mud puddles with Panda, her stuffed bear. When Grandma encourages the tea party, Lisa tells her that she’s all done being a girl. Lisa is very adamant about not doing any girl things. She tells her Grandma that she’s going to be a boy. Lisa finally asks Grandma if she will still love her if she’s Max or Fred. Grandma assures her that she loves Lisa even if she is Max or Fred.
  • In “Charlie Is a Girl,” we explore some of the obstacles that Christina faces in becoming Charlie. She takes charge in talking with the principal to make it all work out for her to start her school year as Charlie. She even takes a copy of the law that was passed giving her the right to be Charlie, but she finds the biggest item on the agenda was what “restroom” was Charlie going to use? They even worked that out by giving Charlie a key.

Handling things in age-appropriate ways are best, as long as that doesn’t mean stereotypical talk, such as “boys don’t dance, they play football” or “girls don’t play football, they dance.”

These types of statements may seem harmless, but what the child cannot say back to you is that he or she doesn’t feel that gender on the inside. We actually harm kids by telling them what is appropriate and what is not appropriate for their gender. Some crossover is natural. Sometimes it is a sign that there are tendencies toward being trans. Time always tells. Being supportive in this growth is just as important as helping them learn to walk or ride a bike.

When children feel guilty that they cannot be the child that you, the parent, wants them to be, they often cope with these feelings by trying to commit suicide or committing suicide. As parents, we want to help our children to become the best they can be. Why is it so hard to not see being lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender as part of who our child is? To ask them not be who they are is to reject them. Our children try, but failing in that, they move on to depression and manic depression and suicide. No one really wants that for their child.

Children who have a bad self-image, which LGBT children are prone to have, are at higher risk of being bullied. This behavior can also be fatal. A fragile child may not be strong enough to battle with a bully. Again, suicide is often what they see as their best choice, “so no one has to deal with the outcast.”

It is my hope that When Panda Was A Boy will help children in grades K-8 to feel normal about their gender choices, both in to whom they are attracted and to what gender they are inside. No matter what gender is on the outside, children as young as four or five may express their inner gender. Parents can help their children by being supportive and following their lead.

Connie Dunn is an author, speaker, and book writing coach. Her book, When Panda Was a Boy: a Collection of Stories on Gender Identity for K-8, is available in paperback and Kindle from (

Connie also teaches people to write and publish their books. You can find other information about her, her books, and courses at Publish with Connie (

To receive a FREE Parent’s Guide: 10 Tips for Parents on Talking about Gender Identity to Your Children Sign up at: