Details and Transcript

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Timestamps

  • 00:00 - Introduction

  • 01:02 - Segment 1: The Next Species (Short Story)

  • 07:40 - Segment 2: The Origin of "Wearing Your Heart On Your Sleeve" (Metaphor History)

  • 17:22 - Segment 3: Personal Blogs (Communication Topic)

  • 27:38 - Segment 4: Talk With Patrick Taylor (Guest Interview)

References

Theme Music​

Transcript

To my splendid family and friends. Near and far. Old and new. This is Kevin Mercurio on the mic. And welcome to the 32nd episode of the Metaphorigins Podcast.

 

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Okay, let’s start the show. Today, I’m going to talk about a beautiful idiom that, when used to describe someone, often depicts onlookers with puppy dog eyes showing care and respect for said individual.

 

Volume, earpiece, action: The year is 2077. Two years ago, the world’s most renowned scientists in evolutionary biology announced that humans, or more specifically Homo sapiens, are now a minority. Technological advancements in 3D-printing and tissue engineering have made it easier to incorporate synthesized biological entities into the body. Dual calcified-metallic bone, semi-porous polyethelene epidermis, incredibly tiny tubular veins and arteries, even whole organs, can now be created in institutes called Processpitals.

 

Scientists have named the new majority race, Homo deus ex machina. With this new era of species development, what also followed were major changes to society and government. In the merging of the human body with technology, it became apparent that many countries were not prepared for this sudden shift. Take healthcare regulations. Should those that have the wealth to afford treatments at proccesspitals be given priority over those who could not? What is covered by public versus private insurance? And would these differ depending on your species?

 

Now, what about policies for education? Improvements in neuroscience have made it easier for some to restructure neuronal wiring depending on the task presented to them, permitting more effective action potential and collaboration with relevant regions of the brain. With a new surge of incorporated 10G connectivity in the latest brain tech update, what classifies learning? Is quickness in finding the right answer equivalent to applying information to unknown problems with unknown solutions?

 

If you’re like most of Homo deus ex machina, your response to all of these questions is, “Who cares?”. A question to a question. And there’s some validity to this blunt, non-empathic response. Civilization is progressing towards new frontiers. We cannot measure development via the same metrics as the past. Have a problem with learning a new skill? Download implementation software. Don’t like how your eyes look? Book an appointment at the proccesspital’s ophthalmology unit. Everything about yourself you dislike or want to improve can now be done and displayed to the world.

 

Yet, there is one part of the body that has eluded the brightest minds of both Homo sapiens and Homo deus ex machina. The heart. The WHUO, or the World Health and Update Organization, has listed cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death over the last century. One hundred years of scientific research and still, a failing heart kills more people than any other disease. The heart, arguably the most vital organ in the body, possibly only contended against the brain and reproductive organs, is still a mystery. Trials at replicating the intricate heart have drastically failed. Only one company, Syncardia, has been able to produce a synthetic heart, however the recipient has to carry an external air compressor everywhere they go in order to facilitate pumping blood.

 

That is until today. Homo deus ex machina scientist, 2066 Nobel prize winner for nanoparticle self-assembly cardiac catheterization and the world’s leading expert in cardiology Dr. Werner deus Forssmann developed a unique way to fix a failing heart. A new piece of imbedded technology called the Heart Sleeve is described as a fail-safe during a heart attack or stroke. Using the latest models of artificial arteries and veins, the heart sleeve circumvents a stopped heart, funnelling deoxygenated blood from the sleeve, to the lungs, and automatically distributes from the lungs to the rest of the body. Eliminating the step of moving oxygenated blood back to the heart after the lungs actually increases oxygen delivery to major organs of the body. Patients in clinical trials for the Heart Sleeve have demonstrated full recovery from heart failure, and even improved body movement and mental perceptiveness. In combination with the advances in neuroscience, this could lead to unforeseen capabilities.

 

In a press conference for the release of the Heart Sleeve into the market, Dr. Werner deus Forssmann himself states, “Today marks a new chapter in the rapid evolution of Homo deus ex machina. To our brethren, fellow human beings of the Homo sapiens race, we provide you with this gift as well, so long as you accept and are able to afford it. By wearing your heart on your sleeve, we can put a stop to the vulnerability of our fragile hearts and proudly send cardiovascular disease into history. This technology will also, by improving mental capabilities, shorten the divisions between our species. Soon, with research currently looking at combining the Heart Sleeve with brain tech, we will be able to solve problems to such a high degree that, essentially, we will be future-seeing gods.”

 

One reporter chimes in, “What? I’m sorry Dr. deus Forssmann, are you saying that by wearing your heart on your sleeve, not only are you demonstrating your support for our vulnerable, fragile heart by proudly sending cardiovascular disease into history, but you’re also claiming that the Heart Sleeve can help us predict the future and solve problems like a God? How is that possible?”

 

Dr. deus Forssmann smiles. “It just will,” he says, “that’s all I’m able to divulge of the story at this time.” He then waves his artificial hand at the crowd and jetpacks back to the lab.

 

Alright, I get that was a bit lazy on my part, as most stories with deus ex machina are. Yet I couldn’t help how technological advancement will potentially make humans seem like gods, at least to us right now, and the latin wordplay with that plot device was so, perfect. Anyway, if you caught today’s expression, it’s one so elegantly put, a fantastic metaphor utilizing imagery and our attribution to what the heart means. But how did the movement of this vulnerable organ to an even more vulnerable position depict openness to share our thoughts and feelings?

 

What is the origin to the expression, “wearing your heart on your sleeve”?

 

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Most of this information was obtained from many articles discussing its usage and the potential origins to this expression. All sources will be mentioned in the description.

 

Relationships are anything but easy. They require a large amount of effort to develop, often only flourishing over the course of several years. Yet, we continue to pursue them, likely out of a basic human need to connect with others, to understand the human psyche a little bit further, by walking through the shoes of another, or fitting your shoes onto their feet. The latter, involving revelations by you but also reflecting on your true self, is considered by many the most challenging part of these relationships.

 

And I don’t just mean romantic relationships either. Caring relationships between a child and a parent or guardian require a tremendous amount of empathy and reflection. Platonic relationships with friends arguably take up just as much effort as a romantic one and can span entire lifetimes. Business relationships need to be somewhat open between the participants involved, particularly if what is dealt on the table is someone’s passion and hard work. Over the course of our evolution, we, as human beings, seek these connections within communities, dream about connections that create the ideal life we strive to achieve.

 

In all of these types of relationships, one thing is clear, which is that trust must be established. Romantic relationships without trust are destined for long fights of impulsive accusations and debilitating meddling. Children who cannot trust their parents will simply seek guidance from external sources. Friends who lose trust in one another fall into acquaintances and slowly become just social media friends, if that. And business partners who fail to trust one another will tarnish the legacies they try to build. Professor at the University of Houston and researcher in management Dr. Brene Brown stresses that trust needs to be broken down into its fundamental elements to be more easily understood. She offers the acronym BRAVING, which I will summarize here; Boundaries between parties, Reliability on others, Accountability of mistakes, Vault material discussed in confidence, Integrity in actions done, Non-judgement in faults and struggles, and Generosity in assumptions and behaviours. Indeed, there’s more to trust than we care to appreciate, like that iceberg meme showing that the majority is below the surface of the water, and it is through trust that, as mentioned by relationship experts John and Julie Gottman, “People say that trust is the #1 characteristic they want in a partner, and trust is what makes human communities work.”

 

Have you been in relationships were trust seems lopsided? Like the level of openness you have is unmatched by the other? It doesn’t feel great, actually, it feels terrible. To get to BRAVING, to get to trust, one must get passed the feeling of vulnerability, that feeling of standing naked in front of someone eyes with the potential of being judged negatively. It is here that today’s expression comes in full view, “Wearing Your Heart On Your Sleeve” is defined by Cambridge Dictionary as, “to make your feelings and emotions obvious rather than hiding them”. We take a big chance whenever we attempt connection, and therefore I often ask, does this logically make sense given the risk-reward?

 

In modelling today’s expression, I feel that everyone would benefit from a trust issues anonymous group. Hi, I’m KM. I struggled to make friends after elementary school. I’ve had three long-term partners, all of which ended with them pitying me. Despite garnering some professional success, I guess through bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts, I’ve grown closer to my family and friends who stuck by me during my hostility. I am now alone with my own thoughts in a new country. Valid, it’s easy to wear my heart on my sleeve over a podcast, but practicing to present the sleeve in various situations outside of this medium has grown my trust in other people.

 

We need more people to embrace vulnerability. Wearing your heart on your sleeve is likely the most admirable thing you can do. Lists on news sites like the India Times, Elite Daily and Bolde emphasize this with reasons you should do this despite the ease of being hurt. Summarized, these reasons include getting to know the real you, doing or saying what you actually want, increasing compassion, relieving stress and pain, building courage to try things, moving on with greater capacity to love, and most important of all, by wearing your heart on your sleeve, this leads you to believe that people are good. At least in a community that fosters values and ethics, people are likely good in their intentions.

 

Let’s get to the heart of the matter. Why express this willingness to be vulnerable with our beloved love organ on the sleeve? That sounded weird, I meant heart on the sleeve. There are two main origins to this expression. The first, echoed by Grammarist and Writing Explained, is an old medieval custom during jousting tournaments, where knights would tie some token like a cloth or handkerchief around their arms to signify their love for their wives. It could also date to another tradition back in the Middle Ages where, mentioned by the Smithsonian Magazine, ”Emperor Claudius II believed unattached men made better soldiers so he declared marriage illegal. As a concession, he encouraged temporary coupling. Once a year, during a Roman festival honoring Juno, men drew names to determine who would be their lady friend for the coming year. Once established, the man would wear her name on his sleeve for the rest of the festival.”

 

However, most attribute its mainstream usage that associates sleeve hearts with vulnerability to none other than William Shakespeare (this guy is becoming as prolific on this podcast as Jonathon Swift). Mentioned in Phrase Finder, is Shakespeare’s 1604 play Othello in which,

 

“the treacherous Iago's plan was to feign openness and vulnerability in order to appear faithful [through his verse]:

It is sure as you are Roderigo,

Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago:

In following him, I follow but myself;

Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,

But seeming so, for my peculiar end:

For when my outward action doth demonstrate

The native act and figure of my heart

In compliment extern, 'tis not long after

But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve

For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.”

 

It is through this origin that I find the most interesting, where the saying and action of “wearing your heart on your sleeve” is popularized here with deceitful intent. Even then, it was noted that vulnerability can be used as a tactic to appear more trustworthy in someones eyes. Perhaps this is the caveat we rarely think about in our own relationships, that by BRAVING and building this trust, that in the event of catastrophic failure, the pain is practically unbearable. That the ultimate vulnerability is not making your emotions known, but believing that others are not presenting false feelings, and this will always be open for interpretation.

 

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For my communications segment, I would like to talk about a hobby of mine, and one that many in the scientific community engage in on a daily or weekly basis. An activity that requires a lot of reflection in order to write up something of value for not just a targeted audience, but for yourself. And that topic is personal blogs.

 

The concept of personal blogs sounds so archaic these days, especially with the advent of social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. With so much of our lives already on display across multiple platforms, is it even necessary to voice opinions and share stories in a more personal internet environment? What I aim to do in this segment is to explore blogging from a general perspective and then home in on its practical uses in science communication. Ultimately, this will serve to describe my own motivations for blogging on my personal website and whether this form of expression is actually useful, or just a complete waste of everyone’s time.

 

Doesn’t the idea of blogging from a completely personal standpoint sound like a welcomed invasion of privacy? Blogging could be compared to inviting complete strangers into your house for a discussion about your thoughts over tea. And unless you’re some recognizable figure in the public domain already, why would someone outside of your social circle care about your thoughts on life anyway? In fact, I might be stretching it a bit, let’s say outside of your immediate social circle, and even then I doubt my close family and friends would desire to open up my monthly blog for a read.

 

Yet, blogging actually did not begin with an audience in mind, nor were they thought of as breaches of security into ones mind. The term “blog” actually comes from the word weblog, which defined the act of logging or recording as one surfed the internet. It was coined by John Barger, one of the earliest bloggers of the internet and editor of the Robot Wisdom blog. Blog was actually a joke on the original term, in which Peter Merholz, who later headed design at Groupon and OpenTable among other rising companies, stated in 1999, “we blog in the side bar”. However, these two weren’t the first bloggers, you know, back when blogging was so original it was hipster. Still a bit of a debate, but this title seems to go to either Justin Hall (a student of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, USA), Jerry Pournelle (an American polymath as well as scientist in operations and human factors research) or Claudio Pinhanez (now a senior manager at IBM).

 

In all of these cases, weblogging or blogging was in fact an open journal of what one was doing on the internet. Surprisingly, on the same year that the term blog became part of the vernacular, English computer scientist Sir Timothy Berners-Lee creates the first web browser in conjunction with his invention of the World Wide Web, the information system of documents categorized with Uniform Resource Locators (or URLs), that we all take for granted. With the web browser came web browsing history, allowing users to seamlessly return to previous URLs, making the original idea of blogging somewhat obsolete.

 

Yet, this idea of logging something you were doing on the internet only picked up momentum from the start of the new millennium. Websites emerged from the ether, making blogging extremely accessible to those who owned and used computers. Platforms like the aptly named Blogger, LiveJournal, and Xanga emerged, and then customizable blogging interfaces like TypePad and Wordpress debuted. The idea of blogging, rather than an obsolete form of internet surfing records, became a serious space of ideals and consequences. Around this time, an American woman was fired for speaking about her colleagues in her personal blog, and just a few years after this incident another woman was fired for similar reasons, except her blog was actually under a pseudonym until her true identity was released by the platform she used, Wonkette. Money flowed into this activity, as it would within capitalist environments. Blog ads and the Google owned AdSense allowed bloggers to host advertisements on their posts. And to no ones surprise, this enormous interest in ad-centred media directly fuelled the desire for connecting with well-known people, as well as people in your community, ultimately laying the foundation for social media platforms so widely used today.

 

I apologize, as while researching and writing this topic, I didn’t expect to go into a history lesson. But I think it’s always important to view topics with massive scopes from their origins, shifting the purpose of the blog as time went on. To being a practical tool for a new technology, to being taken seriously in workplaces, to figuring out that the platform brings in load of cash, and finally to seeding the desire for connectivity with people around the world. And this holistic idea is a true summary of what blogging is today, or at least, what it could be, particularly for one’s professional career.

 

This is more and more clear in the area of science communication. As stated by Patrick Wareing, a science writer at Kolabtree, “Days are gone where research and new information are shared amongst experts solely through research papers and journals, to mass online media where anybody can share data, draw conclusions or convey their own opinion.” Perhaps its this ability to share at a rapid rate that, even to one’s best intentions, leads to a rise in misinformation or worse, strategies to spread disinformation. Researchers can no longer remain within silos and are practically pushed into the public sphere, prepared or not, to talk about the implications of their research. Some choose not to participate, alienating the exact people they wish to support. Others choose to participate without using simpler terms, or reframing concepts to something relevant the public can empathize with.

 

It is in this regard that I believe blogging has some value, and I am not alone in this belief. Science blogger Dr. Stephanie Chuttler, who has a PhD in wildlife biology, describes science blogging as an evergreen product, “refers to content that is continually relevant […] Unlike social media, where your posts go to the bottom of the feed, your blog posts can be easier to find with more time. It takes months before Google knows how to rank your post in search results, and if you understand how Google’s algorithm works and your competition, you can update your blog posts to try to rank higher.” If you want to have a platform to share content, blog posts age better than social media.

 

Of course, this will take up a lot of precious time, time that you may want to reserve for your real work. In an article for the journal Nature, editor of the science blog Scientist Sees Squirrel Dr. Stephen Heard, who is an evolutionary ecologist at the University of New Brunswick, voiced similar concerns, “I’ve spent eight hours writing a single post […] I try to blog at low-productivity times, like when I’m in an airport lounge or waiting for a meeting to start.” These low-productivity times, as he describes, can be extremely valuable to the researcher, giving time for them to reflect on complex topics in their minds and writing it down.

 

And blogging doesn’t need to be directed towards an audience like the public, but could serve as another way for you to connect with likeminded individuals. By producing blogs and categorizing them via methods like hashtagging, one could establish a community that the public and fellow researchers can engage in. In another Nature article, Plant Biologist at Stellenbosch University Dr. Nokwanda Makunga expressed her thoughts about the #BlackinSTEM campaign and the #BlackBotanists week, “From a personal perspective, I felt seen, validated and valued during that week last year. We were able to create a global community. I don’t see my role as a way of pushing my career. My role as a Black female scientist who works at a university with a long history of apartheid and continuing low diversity is to inspire others who are like me to pursue this career.” This outreach to those who don’t feel good enough to make it within a society that directly highlights this underrepresentation is almost necessary today.

 

But perhaps, the best part about blogging is not one’s reach outwards, but inwards. The ultimate question one should ask when given the opportunity to communicate science or share any content is, Why? What is motivating you to provide this information to the world? In an American Scientist article which highlighted her dissertation, Dr. Paige Jarreau shows a beautiful figure highlighting the main reasons surveyed science bloggers do their blogs. She explains, “[…] bloggers are not only writing for an audience, but also for themselves. After outreach, internal motivations (“for myself”) were some of the most common reasons bloggers gave for their blogging. In other words, we enjoy blogging about science. Blogging is a form of self-expression and a means of having a voice in larger media and public conversations about science.” Blogging is finding your own expert voice in a crowd that may or may not contain expert views that contribute to rational, scientific discourse.

 

The responsibility of communicating what we do and who we are falls heavily upon the individual, dependent on their ability to express themselves freely and succinctly. Sometimes individuals or communities actively try and silence this expression, or through another extreme, take advantage of this human right to disseminate false information, intentionally or not. I mean, we see this on social media everyday, and it perhaps has always been the case since it’s inception. But blogging in regards to science communication is more than that, it is evergreen reflection that gives researchers space to ruminate on complexities. A tool that empowers those who attempt its practice and connects to others with similar goals. It’s communication like the internet was always meant to be, sincere logging of ones personal history for future reference.

 

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For my second guest of the season, I’ll be interviewing someone who I consider one of my earliest mentors who, through sheer passive diffusion of technical skill and scientific thinking, has led me down this path of communication in the general scientific community.

 

He is a postdoctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University in Canada studying bacterial pathogenesis, focusing on how opportunistic pathogens adapt their molecular tools to cause disease when infecting people. He is also currently the Science Director of the Saturna Island Marine Research and Education Society. Located in the middle of the Salish Sea, he actively works with community scientists to maintain the health of sea ecosystems. He is passionate about doing science and committed to engaging people in the science topics he loves.

 

Please welcome the tremendously colourful, Patrick Taylor.

 

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*INTERVIEW*

I feel like everyone, no matter what stage of their life, are continuously finding themselves. Time is never in our favour. I hope you enjoyed learning about Hearts and Blogging. Ugh, if only everyone could respect and easily embrace vulnerability, I think all our relationships would be better off. So yeah, updates. My short fiction about pandemic-fuelled cancel culture was published in the Health Science Inquiry Journal at the University of Toronto. Written in the style of a diary entry at the end of 2020, the narrator (that being you) are recounting how the pandemic began in real life, leading to the creation of an app that allows people to cancel others who break public health guidelines. Do give it a read on the Health Science Inquiry website, along with great SciComm articles by Canadian graduate students. But that’s it for this episode, thanks so much for listening. Do remember to follow the podcast Instagram page for visual updates and sneak peaks, and of course, anyone following will be placed into the draw to win some Metaphorigins swag, whatever that ends up being, on my 40th episode and Season Four Finale. Rate, subscribe, share, message, megaphone this episode to your family and friends. Tune in next week but until then, stay skeptical but curious.

 

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