In Print: Toys Will Be Toys
May21

In Print: Toys Will Be Toys

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in the current issue of C&EN. As the cashier at the fast-food restaurant is finishing our order, she grabs a small plastic doll and tosses it in my kids' meal. "Excuse me," my mom says testily. "You didn't give my daughter a choice of toys." Even at age six, I can tell my mom is using tremendous restraint to give this young woman a chance to rectify her unintentional wrongs. The woman looks at my mom, then at me, and asks, "Well, do you want the girls' toy or the boys' toy?" I don't remember if I ended up picking the doll or the toy car on that particular occasion. But I do distinctly remember the feeling of trying to weigh the gaps in my own eclectic toy collection with the point my now-fuming mother was trying to teach both me and the young woman at the cash register. Toys are toys, and kids should be able to choose their own interests without feeling undue social, gender-specific pressure. Twenty years later, I call my mom and tell her about this column, and she's outraged we're still having this debate. As I write in Newscripts this week, the gender-specific labeling of toys came under fire in England recently. Specifically, customers and online advocacy group Let Toys Be Toys took issue with science kits and chemistry sets being designated for boys. Since the backlash, toy giant Tesco and pharmacy chain Boots have changed their girls- and boys-specific toy labeling and issued apologetic statements. In the U.S., however, it remains fairly ubiquitous. Target has girls' toys and boys' toys, as does Walmart, Toys"R"Us, and Fisher-Price--where play kitchens are still considered girls' toys and Star Wars action figures are found in the boys' section. Some studies have suggested a hormonal basis for children's toy preferences. On the other hand, Sweden has found support for gender-neutral toy catalogs and early-childhood education. Biological influences aside, it makes one wonder what the STEM divide would look like if girls were allowed or even encouraged to pick up a model train, a kit for making a clock from a potato, or a play chemistry...

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Amusing News Aliquots
Aug30

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf. Two Tesla coils perform “Sweet Home Alabama.” Rock on, electrical engineering students. [Improbable Research] Squid cells dance to “Insane in the Membrane.” Rock on, neurobiology students. [Discoblog] And you thought Nintendo’s Power Glove was rad back in the day. Now there’s Stanford’s cooling glove. It’s better than steroids. [Stanford News] Soft lighting and mood music in a fast-food restaurant make patrons eat 175 calories less than usual, study shows. Newscripts wonders whether it might just be easier NOT to eat the fast food in the first place and … who funds this stuff? [ScienceDaily] Really old bugs trapped in amber. Just because they’ve been dead for 230 million years doesn’t mean they can’t still give us the creepy crawlies. [CBC News] MRSA vs. Marmite? [Daily Mail] Improbable Research would like to know: Which is better, the Heck Reaction or the Hell Reaction? We’re sure that you’ve got opinions, dear readers. [Improbable Research]...

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