The Science of Race

“We use these terms — white, black, Indian, Latino — and they don’t really mean what we think they mean,” saidClaudio Saunt, a historian at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the study.

NY Times: White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier

Often, what we really mean has to do with ethnicity, culture, religion, socio-economic class – or some combination thereof. If we want to solve the problems that lead to humans dying, grieving, protesting in NY and elsewhere, understanding what we mean might help. We can’t transform the language we use overnight but we can plant thought seeds …


there are averages of genetic profiles of people from certain populations, but even those aren’t very illuminating for individuals. “I could tell you what the average Mexican would be — 50 percent European, 45 percent Native American and 5 percent African, but it’s a very broad spread,” he said. That makeup might vary wildly from person to person. The “typical” ethnic ancestry for a Mexican is very different from that of someone who is Dominican — or, say, a Filipino person whose DNA comes mostly from East Asia — but all might be lumped under the same racial umbrella and deemed to look “Latino.”

The racial profiles we assign ourselves — I’m black, I’m Asian, I’m white — remain overly simplistic

How Can A White Supremacist Be 14 Percent Sub-Saharan African?


Those who identify as primarily white can have African ancestry. 23andMepublished a study (pdf) based on its own dataset that concluded that approximately 3 to 4 percent of their customers who identified as being of primarily European descent had at least one ancestor in the last 10 generations who could be traced back to Africa.

Do Most Whites Have Traces of African DNA, as I Do?


When modern humans migrated out of Africa some 60,000 years ago, they found the Eurasian continent already inhabited by brawny, big-browed Neanderthals. We know that at least some encounters between the two kinds of human produced offspring, because the genomes of people living outside Africa today are composed of some 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal DNA.

Surprise! 20 Percent of Neanderthal Genome Lives On in Modern Humans, Scientists Find



Crystallography Pioneer Mentored Other History Makers

Physicist Donald Anderson Edwards not only made significant contributions to his field, he mentored others who did likewise:

  • Joseph McNeill – a engineering physics major was one of the Greensboro Four . It should be noted that Franklin McCain, another member of the Greensboro Four, was also a STEM major(dual degrees in chemisty and biology).
  • Dwight Davis – is a distinguished cardiologist “who has played a leading role in medical education at Pennsylvania State University for almost 25 years.”
  • Ronald McNair became the second African-American astronaut to fly on the Space Shuttle. His plan to be the first human to record an original piece of music in space was cut short by the Challenger explosion.

Quadruple Play: Physics, Biology, Math and Music

Physicist and 2013 Edward Bouchet Award winner Stephon Alexander can be seen below with Jim Gates, who as we’ve previously noted was the first(1994) recipient of that award.


In the background of the photo above you can see that the two physicists are at the E.E. Just Symposium. Stephon Alexander is the Ernest Everett Just 1907 Professor of Natural Sciences at Dartmouth. Just was a visionary biologist who saw

that organisms are holistic systems with emergent properties that arise from their organization and complexity …

Only today, with powerful tools such as low-light, high-contrast optical-sectioning microscopy (Yuste and Konnerth, 2005), are we beginning to noninvasively image molecular activities and other events inside cells as they occur during development.

E. E. Just understood, long before such technologies were available, that treating the cell as a holistic system necessitates using methods that do not destroy its integrity. Today, as ecology and biological development, separated for a hundred years, are reunited under the auspices of Eco-Devo, we can celebrate the work and insight of Ernest Everett Just.

Science Direct

Stephon Alexander is also exploring relationships between disciplines:

“There is a conceptual connection between physics and music,” Alexander observes. “In composition or improvisation I see geometric parallels to physical laws like gravity, with the musician gravitating to or away from certain tonal tensions. I see geometry as a principle that governs physical law and also harmonic and rhythmic ideas in music, especially in jazz.

Dartmouth Now(emphasis mine)

In this Ted Talk he even demonstrates how John Coltrane’s Giant Steps can be related geometrically to quantum gravity and dna! As he notes in his presentation it might be  “a bit much”, however recalling the notion that Drummers Are Natural Intellectuals, perhaps it’s quite Natural.

Black Greek STEM Leadership

In 1911, The Black Apollo Hero Heru of Science Ernest Everett Just, two science majors(who went on to get advanced degrees) along with another Howard student founded the first black greek fraternity at an HBCU – Omega Psi Phi.


That was a great start for STEM leadership and it made me wonder which black greek organizations produce the most STEM graduates? @OMEGAPSIPHI @NPHC1930