People don’t think plants are sexy. Even biologists don’t think plants are sexy. In my first year as an undergraduate, an enterprising algal biologist asked us at the start of his lecture series how many of us thought plants were interesting, and was met with a deafening silence. By the end of his teaching block, when he repeated the question every hand in the lecture theatre went up.
But plants are sexy: and their sexual reproductive systems are far more variable than you might think. In school we’re taught that flowers have petals and sepals and carpels and stamens. All very nice and dull.
Typical anatomical drawing from EnchantedLearning.com
But in reality there are lots of other cool versions of flowers. There are plants like Anthurium that use a brightly coloured leaf in place of true petals. And plants that have separate male and female flowers, like Euphorbia – in which the flowers are often so reduced that they consist of barely more than the sexual organs.
Last weekend I went to visit my other half, which involves 2 hours on a train both there and back. This is prime time to do some reading for pleasure, which I otherwise never find time for (despite having been a huge book worm for my entire life).
On this particular occasion I was getting my teeth stuck into a new pop science book by Brooke Magnanti called The Sex Myth: Why Everything We’re Told is Wrong. (Which, incidentally, lead to some surprisingly horrified looks from the businessman sat opposite me). I’m always slightly suspicious of anyone who feels the need to advertise their PhD on the front cover of a book, but in Magnanti’s case, she has good reason for wanting to emphasise her credentials. Better known as the Belle de Jour, while writing up her doctoral thesis Brooke worked as a £300 / hour call girl in London, and took the nation by storm with her memoir blog, in which she gave a rather positive view of prostitution. As it happens, she’s also a fully PhD-ed and postdoc-ed forensic scientist and statistician.
Posted in Book Review, Feminism, Just me, Opinion, Science
Tagged book review, brooke magnanti, experimental design, government, science, sex, statistics