Black Lives Matter and the Cost of Silence

As a white man, I am not writing this because I think I have a special insight that can’t be found elsewhere. I am writing this because 1) I have a platform, 2) to promote Black voices, and 3) to take responsibility. I will highlight things that I think are important but for the purpose of encouraging you to check out the various resources I’ve provided. A lot of this will be Booktube content, but I use them because they are completely reflective of society as a whole. I started this post with a video of Kimberly Jones, the author of “I’m Not Dying with You Tonight,” discussing the problem with the system and why the riots/protests/property damage are not the problem. If anything, they speak to the severity of the problem. What’s more, it was beautiful, profound, and devastating. Please watch it.

Silence and the Power of Social Media

Now lets talk about silence and complicity. People don’t want to talk about this. Why? Because they’re uncomfortable. They’re uncomfortable because they don’t know what to say or don’t want to say the wrong thing. Well, if you don’t know what to say, do same damn research. White Fragility (check that book out, I still need to read it), isn’t an excuse not to talk. You’re going to make mistakes. I continue to do that. Just the other day, I made a comment about our responsibility and described it in a way that perpetuated a white savior complex which goes right back to white supremacy and this idea of superiority. Obviously, that isn’t what I think, or maybe my ingrained prejudices have subconsciously made me think that. The fact is, consciously, I know it isn’t true. What I intend doesn’t matter when what I say and do feed into the ideas of white supremacy and oppression. I’ve used that phrase to a lot of people, and white fragility leads a lot of us to jump to the defense. We know we don’t want to be racist, so we assume that is enough. We have to take responsibility for what we say and do and that takes work and a desire to learn and listen.

However, learning is only the beginning. Another thing Francina (the booktuber in the video) touches on is the power of social media. Those of you who haven’t shared/said even the slightest thing, I’ve noticed. I can’t make you speak out, but if you are reading this, please recognize we have to do more. Now before I go on, I recognize social media isn’t a direct reflection of what someone is doing to support. Support can be shown through donations, petitions, and protesting, and complications in life happen too that may prevent you from being as active as you’d like to be. I say this to encourage self reflection on if you’re doing enough not to pass judgment. Social media is just one small way to make a difference.

Social media, even before Covid, has become the center of some many of our lives. It shapes how we see the world (e.g. Russian bots), and because of that, it’s a powerful tool. While it is a useful means of listening and learning, it is also an opportunity to share voices that some people aren’t exposed to. It is also a way to spark a conversation. Fundamentally, it is about getting people to listen.

Being Ignored and the importance of listening

Understanding racism is to understand the oppressed. That means we have to listen to Black voices. Looking back, we can see how support for Black Lives Matter has evolved. Look at everything that is happening, all because more people are listening and believing. One question that Ashley (I’m unsure about the spelling) poses is “Why now?” She doesn’t believe us. We sit here showing support but history shows it’s fake. History shows we speak up when it’s trendy, and go away when it is not. Again, I doubt few of us would say we intentionally would do that, but intent and actions are not the same. We have to recognize our silence. We have to ask why, and we have to be aware of how easy it is to let it just fade into the background (because we have the privilege to do that; black people can’t escape it so easily). I still don’t know why now is the moment people are listening. I wish I knew.

Support for BLM with time.

The closest answer I could come to seems to be the one Ashley gives: we are afraid of being called out, afraid of being shamed. I know I am ashamed. I think back to when BLM first arose; I considered myself an ally (a term we have not right to assign ourselves). In reality, I was, at best, complicit, at worst actively fighting against it. Both are just as bad. In my years here at Western, my best friend has accused me of racism, more than once. My first reaction is to get defensive, deny, reject, and gas light. I owe her an apology. Yes, I am ashamed but not because of how it makes me look; I’m ashamed of the harm I have put into the world, even on the people closest to me. I don’t say this looking for forgiveness or a pat on the back. Yes I am ashamed. That may have been what made me care enough to listen, but that doesn’t do jack-shit to fix the problem.

1 Being an ally and what we have to do to help
2 Being an ally and making a difference

I can sit here all day and cry about the bad I’ve done, but the point of self reflection is to figure out how to fix the problem. Diana, from the second video on being an ally, summed it up pretty well. Racism isn’t a black problem, it’s a white problem. We started it. We benefit from it. It’s up to us to fix it. Black people have been fighting racism for centuries because their resilient, strong, and capable; it’s on us to decide if we stand on the side of oppression or the side of equality.

Speaking up and joining the conversation is the first step. The other is calling people out; friends, coworkers, and family. Any time, any place. Speak up. This isn’t about politics; it is about basic human rights. I also intend to listen. Too often black voices are ignored, but I know as a white man, I can’t understand without listening because my experience is so fundamentally different than what it is for Black people and other POC. But more than that, I was raised by a system that taught me I should benefit from discrimination and oppression. I can easily sit here and say, “I don’t stand for that!” But that doesn’t change the fact that it is ingrained into my psyche and the society I live in.

That is why it is all the more important that we listen and believe Black people and other POC (Western students, check out the amazing memoir by an alumni of our own University, Eternity Martis). Then we use that to support them; stop supporting racist people and organizations that contribute to the oppression. Stop being silent. Lastly, vote and fight for systematic change.

I want to finish this post off with two videos from TikTok. I know many of you may scoff, but these highlight how powerful social media can be. In this first video we see a strong yet succinct message of how white people ignore Black people. Then we see a performance of a piece that references all the harm and fear the Black community has to experience. Like the first video I shared, it stresses the pain that is being felt.

September Update 2020

The more time passes the more I realize I don’t know. The biggest thing I realize is I need to listen more. There is a difference between promoting black voices and talking for them. Despite my intentions, I’ve continued to do harmful things, but it is an ongoing effort.


Support BLM:

National Action Against Police Brutality Petition :…

Victims Funds :…

Justice for Breonna Taylor Fund :… Bail Funds :…

NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund :

Ahmaud Arbery Fund :…

Minnesota Based Black Visions Collective :

Read and Learn

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racism in America by Ibram X. Kendi, available on Spotify in its entirety.

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo

White Rage by Dr. Carol Anderson

How to Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi

Here is another list of amazing resource of ways to educate yourself created by @Autumn_Bry

Selective Log of Scientific Papers | 2020

List of Papers

[1] Clayton et al., 1990 – Effects of Advancing Freeze Fronts on Distributions of Fine-grained Sediment Particles in Seawater and Freshwater

Summary (4/30). This work discusses an experimental study of sediment (dirt) particles in water as it freezes. It assumes some level of mixing has occurred sufficient enough for the sediment to be suspended in the water. The experiment is performed in a small tube with insulated edges to simulate natural scenarios. The authors track the change in salinity and sediment distribution in the ice. The findings suggest salinity removal is higher for slower freeze rates, and the same appears to be true for the sediment. However, sediment much less sediment is removed than salt, with 94% remaining in the ice. Finer particles migrated further than coarser sediment particles.

Discussion. This study says a lot of interesting things, but it is important to note the authors do not touch on mechanisms or venture to guess why sediment particles act different than salt. To me, it implies further dependence on particle size which is reflected by the distribution of sediment by size. Does this suggest HCN (or other organic molecules) will be less resistant to removal than salt? Is the difference in particle sizes significant enough to matter for HCN as it does with sediment used?

Addendum. I think it is safe to equate dissolved molecules (i.e. solutes) with suspended particles. I found this interesting virtual lab that helped me conceptualize the idea. It shows how water will break down salt into the atoms it is made of, perhaps with a slight charge. Alternatively, sugar will break down but only into individual sugar molecules. Fundamentally, these are still particles suspended in the water. We might imagine that the inter molecular forces are more important than larger particles, but fundamentally, they are just particles suspended in water. Therefore, the basics physics should still be applicable. For more on the physics, see the next paper (Remble and Worster 1999).

Further reading: Corte 1962; Reimnitz and Kempema 1979, 1987;

List of Papers

[2] Remble and Worster 1999 – The interaction between a particle and an advancing solidification front

Intro Summary (5/1). I am still reading through this but I wanted to start by reviewing the basic mechanism here as an introduction to the paper (as defined in the paper). When an ice surface approaches a particle in the liquid, the distance (H) between the two shrink. As it gets within a critical distance, intermolecular forces (e.g. van der Waals interactions) come into play and force the two apart. Whether the particle becomes entrapped depends on whether the ice front velocity exceeds a critical velocity that is essentially faster than the particle will move due to these forces. This was known prior to this paper, and this paper explores the idea further. I’ll summarize the entire paper after I finish it, but for now I want to discuss this idea as it relates to my project.

Schematic diagram of a freezing front impinging upon
a foreign particle. From paper. Explanation in text above.

Summary (5/11). This work uses the fundamental physics of particle entrapment to calculate critical solidification velocities (i.e. how fast the water freezes) needed to trap a particle of a given size. They consider the effects of different scenarios of inter molecular forces and briefly consider the effect of buoyancy on the process. As a particle approaches the ice interface, thermomolecular pressures repel the particle. However, within one particle diameter, the process is slowed. Once the solidification velocity reaches a critical point, the particle will become entrapped. The critical velocity is inversely related to the particle radius (e.g. larger particles move slower). Significant buoyancy differences will effect the forces at play, either hindering or encouraging particle entrapment.

Discussion. This is an interesting look at the role of intermolecular forces in this process. I want to look back at Buffo et al. (2018 and 2020) to see if 1) he references this paper and 2) how it relates to his work. I know I’ve seen van der Waals interactions mentioned in the code at the very least. Worster et al. mention that particles with different conductivity will react differently, so I need to think about the conductivity of organics vs water (probably closer than salt?). There is another point in here where Worster says that the higher thermal gradients promote particle repulsion, but that seems to conflict with sea ice observations which suggests thermal gradients are a major factor. This is also only mentioned in passing, so I don’t know what to make of it. My main take away is to investigate intermolecular forces more closely and the role they play.

Further Reading. Israelachvili 1992; Sen et al., 1997; Dash et al., 2006

List of Papers

TEPS 2019 Summer Internship

Summer loving, had me a blast

Picture it, Atlanta 2019. Here I am, working with my old research group at Georgia Tech in the Planetary Habitability and Technology Lab. It is quite the change from London, Ontario. The temperature alone is roughly 10 degrees hotter on average (5 in C). Returning to Western campus will be far more comfortable, but that will soon turn uncomfortably cold. Then there’s the city. Everywhere you look theirs something to do. Great food is in abundance (hence the ~5 pounds I’ve gained while I’m here), and there is infrastructure for biking.

Even with the unbearable heat, I take my bike to the old town beltline-trail, and I ride till I can’t no more. I got my water in the bag, bike bags are attached. stickers on my Black helmet with black tennis shoes to match. Can’t nobody tell me nothin’.

There’s also the distance. Its been great seeing friends and family. I went to some fresh water springs last weekend with my sister, father and a couple step siblings. I also spent my sisters 30th birthday with her and her friends at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. I spent 4th of July with my dad at his house in South GA near Jacksonville. I visited a few friends and my mom a couple times over the summer too; they’re just an hour north east of Atlanta. I also got to see my grand mother and grand father in Macon!

My sister and I swimming at a fresh water spring in north Florida. You are looking at us above a deep whole, maybe a couple meters below the surface and itself another couple meters deep.

Then there’s Werewolf ATL. It was great seeing all my werewolf friends in Atlanta. I was able to join in on their monthly WW meet ups and a couple birthday parties too! That has all be a blast, but the best is yet to come. Dragon Con is upon’s us. It is the superbowl for WW (in my opinion). We will be doing pregaming the Saturday and Wednesday leading up to it. (This all may have passed by the time I publish this post). This year I am volunteering and will enjoy moderating games for part of my time. This year, I have a strict schedule for myself to ensure I get a few hours of sleep (most of the nights), but I also want to make sure I diversify my time at DragonCon. There is so much more to DC than WW.

My first year at DC was dedicated entirely to Space, Science, and Skepticism tracks with a special focus on Space Track. This is where I first saw Dr. Trina Ray talk about the wonderful Cassini mission and how it had been officially extended. It was here that I chose to change focus and give space science a shot. Sure, I had years of love for space and science that had been culminating up to this point, but the space track is what did it, introducing me to people who work in the field. What’s more, it showed me just how much planetary science was left to be done. I must stop or this will become a love fest for space and science and so on.

Image result for cassini
An artistic representation of Cassini as it plunged itself into the atmosphere of Saturn.

My point is there are other things that are worthy of my attention. There are also other geek tracks that focus on science fiction and fantasy in tv, film, and literature. I have so much passion for the things I consume, and I have no doubt I would love these panels if I just made a point to attend.

That will conclude my trip as I return right after it ends on Tuesday, the 3rd of September. Then it’s back to reality.

Modeling Update

New readers may want to check out my previous discussions on what I have been working on. I don’t have the pretty pictures I would like just yet. I have been modeling Titan impact craters with a mix of HCN and water for a range of concentrations to hundreds of meters in depth. The goal has been to find the concentration of HCN in the ice after it freezes assuming an initial concentration. We find this at a range of thermal gradients (depths), and this is all we need to do a 2D model for a melt lens of a given shape and size. Then, we can track the thermal gradient at each point in the pond and get a clear picture of the distribution of concentrations within the ice.

I have the concentrations. I need to fit it to a series of functions to plug into Chase’s model. We have discussed what I need to do to adjust it for Titan. I have not had a chance to do that yet. Once it is set up, we can run it. This is work I am trying to get started on. With the end of my trip and my impending manuscript deadline (I haven’t mentioned that have I?) I haven’t had a chance to dig into that yet. This is work I intend to get into this as soon as I get back. However, the actual results are still several weeks away because I identified a problem with my data. I have enough data to work with the model and get it set up (the hardest part), but the data I have is bad.

I made a mistake in the eutectic curve I used in the model that determines the HCN concentrations. This curve essentially says, if the concentration of HCN is X, the melting temperature is Y. The problem was that I mistakenly type 7307 when I meant to put 73.7. How I missed this is beyond me, but suffice it to say, it probably skewed parts of the data. That means I need to rerun my results. This isn’t all bad. I have a better idea how to expedite this process and can adjust a few of my input parameters. It will still take a few weeks to get the data I need because modeling centimeters in a profile of 100s of meters is tedious work.

The eutectic curve used for HCN (Coates and Hartshorne, 1931).

But fear not! There is a clear path forward, and I still see myself on track to finish this this fall. That paves the way for the daunting task of where to go from there! I’m not scared. Why would I be afraid of reaching a point with no clear path forward (*sarcasm*).

Manuscript Update

I have finished making the updates for my manuscript. I haven’t done a lot of blogging about my work because when I wasn’t blogging, I was editing the manuscript. Forgive me if I was not too keen to carry over my thoughts to here (although you can enjoy my recent writings on books I’ve been reading). I sent my edits to my coauthors. I hope there aren’t too many complaints; the deadline is right at the start of September. The comments weren’t too extreme, but they did prove time intensive. There were changes I might could have justified not doing which would have saved me time, but it was hard to ignore it if I knew it could be done slightly better. Some of the more tedious tasks (table and figure updates) even gave me a chance to enjoy some audiobooks while I worked.

IT: Chapter 2

Finally, in what is undoubtedly the most important event of our lifetime, IT: Chapter 2 is set to release on September 6th. As sad I am to leave Atlanta, I am so excite to finally see IT: Chapter 2. It was such a blessing when the first was released a couple years ago, and I am so happy to see such a major motion picture production for one of my favorite books of all time.

I may update this with some post Dragon Con pictures and comments, but for now, I am going to sign off until I’m back beyond the wall.

Image result for game of thrones the wall
The actual wall separating Canada and the US, as documented by one explorer.